Donations needed to overcome worst blood shortage in over a decade

By Harrison Bates

The American Red Cross, an organization that collects and distributes nearly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, is pleading with the public to help alleviate stress on an exhausted national blood reserve. The non-profit sounded alarms after nearly two years of lulled donation numbers and the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron COVID-19 variant. An estimated 10 percent drop in donations since March 2020 triggered the organization and its counterparts to declare a blood crisis in early January.

I was surprised by the low donor turnout during my visit to the Red Cross in mid-January, so I decided to write this in an attempt to spread awareness of the dire need for blood in this region and country.

After two years of this pandemic, I was hesitant to donate blood, especially with the unnecessary eligibility restrictions placed on queer men by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ultimately, though, I felt that the needs of vulnerable people outweighed my own personal worries and objections.

Blood donation centers are located almost everywhere; the Red Cross’s Boston Blood Donation Center is only one block away from campus at 274 Tremont Street. I walked in, conversed with a really welcoming nurse, and listened to the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” throughout the entire donation process (highly recommend).

America’s blood supply depends on young people, as do the millions that require blood services for treating cancers, traumatic injuries, and a wide variety of other life-saving procedures. In 2019 alone, nearly a quarter of the Red Cross’s donations came from high school and college students – that number now stands at a dismal 10 percent.

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The pandemic has led to the cancellation of thousands of student blood donation events, resulting in a weakened blood supply which has left medical professionals, healthcare facilities, and government officials scrambling for ways to collect this liquid of life. According to givingblood.org, nearly 4.5 million people in the United States require blood transfusions annually. As young people, it’s crucial that we put forward motions of mutual aid, and help those who are in desperate need of a resource that most have a natural abundance of.

If you can, please donate. More information can be found at redcross.org