As the world marks the 2020 World Blood Donor Day amid the COVIID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation, says it is still safe to donate blood at this time.
WHO, however, warned that donors and blood collection centres must apply extra caution and follow laid down requirements during the process.
WHO’s Team Lead on Blood Safety, Dr. Yuyun Gushi, disclosed this on Sunday during a virtual celebration of the day organised by the Pan American Health Organisation and WHO.
World Blood Donor Day is celebrated on 14 June every year to raise awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank donors for their voluntary life-saving gifts of blood.
The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Safe Blood Saves Lives’ which would be promoted with the slogan ‘Give blood and make the world a healthier place.’
According to WHO, the idea is to focus on the contribution an individual giver can make to improve health for others in the community.
Speaking live on Facebook, Gushi said, “It is safe to donate blood during pandemics like COVID-19 as long as the donation centres and the donors followed laid down requirements.
“It is important they mitigate the transmission of the virus.
“For example, the centres should regularly clean their environment.
“Provide a face mask and hand sanitizer. They should observe social distancing.
“Officially, blood collection centres should wear their personal protective equipment at all times and donors must also wear facemasks at all times.
“People with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 should be excluded from blood donation.
“Donors should be educated on risk factors.
“Those with fever and respiratory issues should not donate blood. Collection centres must take extra precautionary measures during the collection process.”
The WHO team lead also pointed out that blood collection centres should not be crowded at this period and during blood donation.
According to her, blood donation during this period of a pandemic should be done based on appointment.
The WHO official revealed that COVID-19 had resulted in the decline of blood supply across the globe.
“Yes, the lockdown policy decreased blood supply as there were less blood donors available for donation.
“Data show 20-30 per cent decrease of blood supply”, she said.
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On challenges facing global blood donation, Gushi said, “Current data show that more than 90 million units of blood were collected annually.
“But Global Data Base of Blood Safety 2015, show that 70 per cent of the global donation was collected in medium-high income countries which is a place for 40 per cent of the global population while the remaining 30 per cent of the global donation was collected in low-income countries which is a place for 60 per cent of the global population.
“The problem is not only with the number of collection centres, but the safety of blood can still not be guaranteed in low-income countries because not all donated blood are 100 per cent tested toward infectious diseases.”
She identified lack of education, cultural resistance, fear of infection, poor donor recruitment as some of the major factors affecting blood donation.
The WHO official called for increased community awareness and the involvement of public figures in blood donation as a way forward, stressing that voluntary blood donation saves lives.