Blood donations needed as medical procedures resume

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Blood donations are needed as Washington hospitals prepare to re-start surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatments that were suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospitals and health care providers in the region are preparing to tackle a significant backlog of surgeries, medical treatments and procedures that require transfusions. “Mounting requests from hospitals are outpacing current collection levels,” said Curt Bailey, president and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest. “We cannot afford to re-start these and other treatments without being utterly certain the blood will be there and steadily available over the coming days and months.”

Bloodworks, which serves patients at hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, is urging donors to pre-book donation appointments online at bloodworksnw.org. It said all types of blood are urgently needed, but that type O is especially in demand.

Before Covid-19, about 60 percent of blood supplies were collected through mobile drives hosted by drive sponsors at schools, workplaces, offices, factories, community spaces and places of worship. Due to social distancing, Bloodworks is no longer doing one-time-only mobile drives, said its press release. Now, the organization is collecting blood at “pop-up donor centers” in large, temporary venues.

Whole blood donors can give blood once every 56 days, up to six times a year. Those aged 16 and 17 who meet donation weight and eligibility requirements may donate with a signed Bloodworks permission form. No guests or people under the age of 16 are permitted onsite to support safe social distancing, minimize wait times and ensure comfortable donation experiences. Donating blood is safe, and there is no risk of contracting the coronavirus from the donation process, the Bloodworks press release said.

The organization’s policies comply with CDC and health department guidelines related to Covid-19. Blood donation takes about an hour. To learn more about who can donate and where, visit bloodworksnw.org.

Separately, an April 17 press release from Washington’s Joint Information Center said that CDC is sending letters to people in the state of Washington who were recently sick with Covid-19 to ask them to consider donating blood plasma as soon as possible.
This could help with the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. This is because people who have previously been infected with the coronavirus may have antibodies specific to the virus. Treating patients with plasma donated by people who were previously sick with the same infection is a technique that has been used to treat other infectious diseases successfully, said the press release.

As CDC works with the Washington State Department of Health to contact patients previously infected with the virus that causes Covid-19, Bloodworks Northwest will ensure that donors are healthy enough to donate and will coordinate testing to determine the level of antibodies in their blood. Once collected, plasma will be processed and studied for effectiveness.

“This program is looking for people who’ve had the Covid-19 disease and recovered, and have been symptom-free for 28 days, to be fully screened to donate their antibody-rich plasma,” said Dr. Rebecca Haley, Bloodworks Northwest’s medical director of cell therapy. “People who believe they might qualify for this study and have received a previous positive test result are urged to contact us immediately at 206/689-6689 to assist these efforts. We are not able to accept presumed cases of Covid-19 at this time.”

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