The University Blood Initiative advocates for blood donation on a national scale, but we especially advocate for our local blood centers and communities. Many blood donations through national centers, while still very much needed, end up redistributed across the country. Due to complications in distribution, may not ultimately go where resources are needed most, particularly rural areas, which are often more difficult to reach. National transportation can be costly, and blood and platelets have short shelf lives, which means the time in transit could contribute to potential loss of viable units. As a result, it is possible--and likely--for the country to have a sufficient national supply of blood while still facing severe local shortages. Demand can fluctuate by the hour, depending on patient needs, so easily accessible local resources are vital to local health.
Sharing supplies as needed across the country is a wonderful pursuit, but theory and practice don’t always align, and we believe it should never come at the expense of your own community. Historically, blood donation has been more prevalent in certain parts of the country, which contributes to blood supply misalignment and ups the need for national redistribution--which, of course, is an imperfect process. The best way to make sure your own blood donation supports your community is to donate locally. Local centers regularly partner with local or regional hospitals and clinics to ensure donations are used as effectively as possible. Local centers may also run mobile drives, which can more easily reach rural or underserved areas than national distribution networks.
We need local donations now more than ever.
Though this all holds true in regular, non-pandemic times, the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the problem. National channels of distribution, such as the Red Cross, have been temporarily suspended, which means that communities facing blood supply shortages cannot get more resources imported. As a result, local centers, which usually make up roughly half the nation’s blood donations, have become the main supplier of blood to communities in need. Social distancing and heightened health and safety precautions have also led to centers largely canceling walk-in donations and limiting appointments, so much-needed blood donations are even harder to come by. Donating, however, is still safe, possible, and more important than ever.
You can read more about how to stay safe donating blood in the middle of the pandemic here. If you do choose to donate, and we hope you do, let us know! Take a selfie or a quick photo of the site and post with the hashtags #DonateRed #CovidCodeRed #NowMoreThanEver to join our COVID Code Red campaign and help spread the word. We might even feature you in one of our Donor Tuesdays!