As summer ends and the school year begins, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Northwest Blood Coalition urge eligible blood donors to schedule donations. This request comes after statewide shortage of donated blood. The cause of this shortage can be attributed to the lack of donations given by high school and college students. “Almost 25 percent of blood donations come from students in high school and college, meaning that they are critically important member of our donor base,” said Vitalant Regional Director Jennifer Hawkins.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Donated blood is crucial for those undergoing surgeries, cancer treatments, blood disorder treatments, complications from childbirth, and other serious conditions and injuries. However, blood supply shortages continue to be a nationwide concern, and Washington state is no exception. “We know that people want to help. Donations tend to slow when school is on break and summer activities are happening,” added Christine Swinehart, President and CEO at Cascade Regional Blood Centers. “As we look toward fall, we want to remind folks that now is a great time to donate!”
There are many theories on why this demographic has stopped giving as much blood and caused this shortage. “One theory that has been floating around is that this shortage was caused by the pandemic,” said Meg Hall, who is the Community Engagement Manager for Bloodworks Northwest. Due to the pandemic, mobile drives were shut down, meaning that donations were no longer available at schools across the state. This caused many organizations to create “Pop Up Centers” that allowed for donations to be made, however due to social distancing and restrictions donations still declined. Another popular theory is that this shortage is caused by the uninformed younger generations. “Prior to the pandemic, donations had already started to decline,” said Hall. “This might be due to older generations aging out, people might not realize what blood donations are used for.”
So where does all this donated blood go, and what is it used for? According to Hall, “All donated blood with Bloodworks NW, stays in the PNW. 90 percent of the blood we receive is from western Washington and Oregon. This blood is used in hospital all throughout PNW, reaching from Bellingham to Eugene.” Blood isn’t the only thing drawn from donors, plasma and red cells can also be taken. Usually, donors will have their blood analyzed by professionals, after that a staff member can discuss what part would be most valuable to draw.
Eligibility can be found on Vitalant, Cascade Regional Blood Centers, Bloodworks NW, and the American Red Cross Northwest Region. Generally, if you are healthy then you will be able to donate blood. Some eligibility rules for giving blood include not having an Covid-19 Symptoms or other illnesses. People who have had the vaccine are eligible to donate, and same with people who have tattoos. For people who would like to donate blood but don’t know where to go, they can search for mobile drives where they simple enter their Zip Code and can find a location.
The Northwest Blood Coalition is formed by four blood centers currently serving Washington State: Vitalant, Cascade Regional Blood Centers, Bloodworks NW, and the American Red Cross Northwest Region. The coalition began before the pandemic, and works on bringing legislative issues into the state, as well as ensure a safe and reliable blood supply for communities.
To learn more and schedule an appointment, please visit the blood center websites linked above.