Students organize upcoming blood drive to alleviate national blood shortage

Nihal Manjila, Staff Writer

The United States is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced blood donations. Since blood can’t be synthetically produced—nor can it be stored indefinitely—medical professionals can only rely on continuous blood donations to manage their supply. This shortage began to develop in March 2020 with a drop of approximately 10% overall blood donations; a number that has continued to decline. This decrease in available blood has the potential to endanger the lives of patients across the country who need life-saving blood transfusions. 

The shortage became so severe that in April 2020 the federal government loosened an FDA rule barring homosexual men from donating blood. This FDA rule was instituted at the beginning of the American AIDS epidemic and was influenced by anti-homosexual sentiment that attributed HIV/AIDS to being sexually active as a homosexual individual. The FDA stated that this change was made on the basis of scientific advances regarding HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began. 

Donated blood is vital to the healthcare system as it can be used to treat patients in hospitals that have suffered blood loss, will undergo surgery, have a blood disorder or any number of other medical conditions that require plasma, red blood cells or platelets. In early January 2022, the American Red Cross reported that up to a quarter of the blood product requests from certain medical centers could not be fulfilled due to a lack of available blood. This means that patients at some medical centers may not be able to receive the life-saving blood they need, and physicians will need to make decisions about how best to utilize the blood they do have. 

In order to be safely transfused into patients, donated blood must undergo a number of different testing procedures and be separated into its components—plasma, red blood cells and platelets. Each of these blood components is then tested, processed and stored before being sent to hospitals and other medical centers.

The American Red Cross provides a major portion—approximately 40%—of the United States’ blood to hospitals and other health centers. Therefore, the decrease in American Red Cross-associated blood drives has a significant impact on the national blood supply. There are many smaller organizations that collect blood donations and provide it to hospitals and other health centers, but many such organizations have been absorbed by the larger organizations. 

It is thought that social distancing and other measures designed to reduce physical proximity between people and the spread of COVID-19 likely reduced the number of blood drives, thereby contributing to the blood shortage.

Additionally, blood drive organizers and attendees have been resisting donating blood for fear of COVID-19 at a blood drive. As COVID-19 policies are being lifted across the United States and people are beginning to feel more comfortable attending blood drives after having been vaccinated, there will hopefully be a rise in blood donations. 

Case Western Reserve University, like other universities across the United States, hosts blood drives in conjunction with the American Red Cross to collect blood donations from students, faculty and staff. These efforts are incredibly important as the number of blood drives held at universities and high schools has dropped by approximately 62% since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Delta Epsilon Mu, the pre-health professional fraternity, hosted a blood drive on Feb. 15-16 in conjunction with the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL) and Thwing Center. Phi Delta Epsilon, the pre-medical professional fraternity, followed suit and will also host a blood drive on April 18-19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Thwing Center Ballroom in conjunction with CCEL, Thwing Center and CWRU Emergency Medical Service.  

Please consider offering some time toward helping this important mission. Your blood donation will save lives and improve the quality of life of many.