National drive aims to increase diverse blood, plasma donations

·2 min read

Story at a glance

  • A new effort by the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to increase the diversity of blood and plasma donors.

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has suffered donation shortages in recent months.

  • The campaign is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

In January, the American Red Cross declared a national blood shortage amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement marked the worst shortage in a decade for the organization, which supplies around 40 percent of the country’s blood.

Now, a new campaign announced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) aims to address the ongoing low supply of blood and plasma donations.

Although shortages have eased in some areas since January, other regions continue to struggle, according to an agency press release. In the United States, an individual is in need of blood for surgeries, cancer treatments, childbirth and other conditions every 2 seconds, while the nearly 30 million Americans with rare diseases rely on plasma donations for treatment. Blood donations are also estimated to save around 4.5 million lives each year.

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The new drive, “Giving=Living” hopes to encourage Americans to form regular donation habits and improve understanding of the importance of being a donor.

“There is no replacement for human blood and plasma,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel L. Levine in a statement. “We simply need more people to give and to give regularly. We also need donors from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds.”

As certain blood types are concentrated in specific groups, diversity of donors is paramount in this effort. Racial and ethnic groups that receive blood from a similar donor have lower risks of the donation being rejected or suffering complications throughout the transfusion.

Communities of color currently make up less than 20 percent of the blood donor pool.

In addition, a large, diverse pool of donors also increases the chances an individual with a rare blood type will find a match.

“A consistent supply of blood and plasma is critical to the health of our nation,” Levine noted.

Giving=Living is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Individuals can find a blood or plasma donation center near them on the campaign’s website.

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