Blood Donor Awareness Month

Whether it be the winter climate or more people being ineligible due to cold and flu infections, January typically sees a decline in blood donations. That’s why on December 31, 1969, President Richard Nixon made a proclamation that officially designated January as National Blood Donor Month. From then on, each January has launched an awareness campaign that acknowledges voluntary blood donors, encourages more people to participate in order to curtail shortages and proactively reinforces the criticality of blood donations in time of need.

Why Donate Your Blood?

When you become a donor, you are proactively saving lives, especially when your blood is separated into individual components such as platelets, red cells and plasma. The blood you give could save many people, including women with pregnancy complications, children with severe anemia, accident and burn patients or even individuals with cancer as well as other chronic health conditions.   

According to data from American Blood Centers (ABC), someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. What’s more, healthcare facilities use an average of 31,000 pints of blood each day, which may sound like plenty, but having enough blood available is critical to saving lives. In fact, ABC notes that it only takes two donations a year from every eligible person to prevent blood shortages. 

Blood Donations and The Fight Against COVID

Today, our medical community needs blood donors more than ever, especially when COVID-related hospitalizations are on the rise. Listed below are some options for donating. 

Convalescent Plasma Donation

Patients who recover from a viral infection have vital antibodies in their blood, which may be utilized in the form of convalescent plasma that can help victims with a weaker immune system fight off the virus. In case you are wondering, convalescent plasma is rich with specific antibodies, in this case, for COVID. 

On August 23, 2020, medical professionals received emergency use authorization (EUA) for CoronaVirus convalescent plasma from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, healthcare providers can now use blood from individuals who have recovered from COVID to treat other COVID patients fighting for their lives in hospitals. 

When you donate plasma after recovering from COVID, you might help others experiencing a serious case of the virus. At present, the Red Cross has set up over 170 convalescent plasma collection locations around the country. To learn where you can donate plasma, all you have to do is fill out the eligibility form, then show up at the nearest collection point.

Whole Blood Donation

Whole blood is taken without being separated into its components. Since it is the most flexible form of donation, whole blood collection is straightforward and the pints can be used in various ways, beginning with their original form as a whole. Healthcare professionals can also separate the blood into its specific components and use them to save multiple lives in different ways. As far as COVID goes, the whole blood from a patient recently recovered from the virus is still complete with antibodies and crucial life-saving constituents. 

Demystifying Blood Donation Eligibility and COVID

Perhaps you may be held back by a few misconceptions about donating blood after being diagnosed with COVID or receiving the vaccine. Here are some clarifications from Red Cross:

  • You can donate blood after being vaccinated for COVID, as long as you are symptom-free.
  • Your eligibility to donate convalescent plasma remains up to six months after your vaccination, although it’s important to remember that antibodies do become less effective over time. 
  • Antibodies made in response to a COVID infection are more effective because they target multiple regions of the virus, including the nucleocapsid protein. On the flip side, antibodies from vaccination only target the spike protein of the virus, making them significantly less powerful.
  • Your blood donation will not impact your immune response.

Where Can You Donate During Blood Donor Awareness Month?

Thanks to organizations such as the Association of the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies (AABB), finding an accredited blood donation site has never been easier. Their Give Blood Locator lets you know of collection points closest to your location when you submit a zip code, city, state and distance within which you are willing to travel. Another equally helpful tool for finding a blood donation site is Find a Blood Center from America’s Blood Centers website. You can use it to save lives by simply taking a few minutes out of your day.

Now that you are more aware of the current blood shortage situation and the impact of your cooperation, you know that becoming a blood donor is one of the best ways to honor National Blood Donation Awareness Month. Your gift may make all the difference and save the lives of people with serious injuries or illnesses.