Health officials in Abu Dhabi urged blood donors to pledge their support and make new donations after fears of contracting coronavirus led to a significant fall in supplies.
The emirate’s blood bank is at an all-time low, and putting lives at risk. Many leukaemia, cancer and trauma patients are dependent on blood donations for their treatment.
“Because people are afraid of the virus, few people are coming forward to donate,” said Dr Naima Oumeziane, medical director of Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, which is operated by Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
Compared to March last year, blood donations last month fell by almost 14 per cent.
The blood bank covers 12 government and 25 private hospitals and trauma centres in the emirate.
Medics have taken additional measures to make the process of donating blood as safe as possible. The temperature of donors is taken before entry and beds are sanitised after each use.
Social distancing is also maintained, Dr Oumeziane said. “Donating blood is completely safe but the people are scared, which is a problem because we need blood.”
Donors are not screened for the coronavirus but are asked if they have travelled in the past 28 days, and if they have any flu-like symptoms.
To date, there is no data or evidence that the virus can be transmitted through blood.
Many blood drives have also been cancelled because of concerns about social gatherings, placing an extra strain on the service.
“Around 65 per cent of the blood we collect comes from blood drives,” Dr Oumeziane said.
“We will go anywhere to collect blood but people are too scared to do so. Donating blood is a safe process. Please keep donating.”
The message has been echoed by the American Red Cross.
“There is no known end date in this fight against coronavirus, and the Red Cross needs the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to maintain a sufficient supply for weeks to come,” read a post on the organisation’s website.
“In times of crisis, the Red Cross is fortunate to witness the best of humanity as people roll up a sleeve to help those in need.”
On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an appeal and set of guidelines to encourage the public to continue to donate blood.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the US blood supply. Donor centres have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives,” said the FDA’s director of the Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
“Maintaining an adequate blood supply is vital to public health. Blood donors help patients of all ages – accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients and those battling cancer and other life-threatening conditions. The American Red Cross said that every two seconds, someone in the US needs blood.”
The Abu Dhabi Blood Bank is now collecting 60 units per day, but needs more.
“We need at least 80 to 100 units to serve all the hospitals,” Dr Oumeziane said. “More blood is urgently needed.”