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A Call to Support the Nation’s Blood Supply

September 18, 2023

A challenging run of climate-related disasters and a summer donation shortfall contributed to a national blood shortage, the American Red Cross announced earlier this month.

The national blood donation organization said the blood supply had fallen to critically low levels since early August, dropping nearly 25 percent. The shortfall threatens medical care for those with emergency needs for blood or who depend on lifesaving blood transfusions, the organization said.

“For so many patients living with urgent medical care needs, crises don’t stop with natural disasters,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, said in a statement. “In fact, in some instances the stress of a disaster can lead to a medical crisis for some individuals battling sickle cell disease.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The cause:  One of the busiest travel seasons on record and back-to-school month—combined with the response to Hurricane Idalia—hindered blood collection drives while the demand for blood continues across the U.S.
  • What you can do:  Per the Pennsylvania Department of Health, most people can donate blood every 56 days—up to six times a year—if they are in good health, at least 16, and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.
  • Weather curtails collection:  When Idalia made landfall last month, more than 700 units of blood and platelets went uncollected, the American Red Cross said.
  • By the numbers:  The Red Cross said it had a 30,000-donation shortfall in August alone.
  • The bottom line:  “The need for blood is constant,” Young said. “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood—an often-invisible emergency that the rest of the world doesn’t see behind closed hospital doors. Now, that urgency has only heightened.”.”

Last month, the FDA finalized its new individual risk assessment for blood donation. Under the new final guidance, all prospective blood donors answer a series of individual, risk-based questions to determine eligibility. Learn more about the changes in the risk assessment online.

For Pennsylvanians interested in blood donation, visit the Department of Health website for more information about the blood donation centers in your community.