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Coronavirus responses have significantly impacted the U.S. blood supply as Vitalant and other blood centers across the country cope with stabilizing blood inventories to meet patients’ transfusion needs. Since the coronavirus pandemic started, Vitalant—the nation’s second largest blood collector—has had nearly 2,000 blood drives canceled, resulting in more than 57,000 uncollected blood donations.

Vitalant strongly recommends that healthy donors schedule an appointment for a donation over the coming days and weeks—instead of donating without an appointment right now—to help us better serve donors and appropriately manage the blood supply.

Please call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825) or click here to schedule an appointmentVitalant has nearly 125 donation centers across the country; donors also can give blood at mobile blood drives. It’s critical that healthy donors continue to give blood—and organizations continue to organize and host blood drives—to maintain a strong blood supply for patients.

“Our challenge will remain for weeks, if not months,” said Cliff Numark, Senior Vice President of Vitalant. “We need donors to make appointments today for these future dates—as we will struggle to replace donations as blood drives continue to cancel. You can help patients by making an appointment today for a date in the future and, of course, by keeping your appointment.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood as it is an essential activity, even amidst COVID-19 response measures. “In healthcare settings all across the United States, donated blood is a lifesaving, essential part of caring for patients,” the CDC declared in a March 19 statement. “CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe…and encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time.”

Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, encourages healthy people to visit blood donation sites. “One thing we should all consider, especially our Millennials and Gen Zs, is donating blood…as an essential part of caring for patients….”

“Social distancing does not need to mean social disengagement. You can still go out and give blood.” – Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General

FEMA has specifically identified blood donation as an “essential and integral component of the emergency support function.” In a March 19 letter to all emergency management agencies, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor stressed: “Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give. Just as the social distancing guidance recommends that it’s okay for people to leave home for necessities like groceries, or a doctor’s visit, or the pharmacy—donating blood is a necessity.”

“Our blood collection sites are a ‘first response’ action to this outbreak versus a gathering that needs to be avoided,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Vitalant’s chief medical and scientific officer. “If you’re healthy, your blood donations are needed over the coming weeks and months. We have to be ready once elective surgeries resume because the need for blood will increase. In addition, as more people become infected, it will put a strain on the available number of healthy blood donors.”

Sick people should not donate blood; blood centers do not test for COVID-19 or the virus that causes it. Blood centers have always required individuals to be in good health to donate, and the blood collection process follows policies established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the health and safety of donors and patients. Vitalant staff follow rigorous safety, disinfection and distancing protocols at its blood drives and donation centers. Giving blood has no impact on the donor’s immune system.

Currently, all blood types and components are needed, especially type O blood donations. Type O-negative blood is the universal blood type: ER doctors reach for it first to help stabilize patients before their blood type is known.

Vitalant continues to closely monitor the situation and will quickly implement any necessary changes as new information emerges from the CDC and FDA. 

Q What is Vitalant?

Vitalant exists to help people realize their life-transforming potential by offering convenient blood donation opportunities and sharing our expertise in transfusion medicine. Founded in 1943, Vitalant is one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit transfusion medicine organizations. We comprise a network of nearly a dozen community blood centers, each with its own rich history and legacy. Vitalant is an internationally known and respected leader that continues to push the boundaries to advance the experience, practice and application of transfusion medicine.

Q How long does blood donation take?

It takes about an hour—from the time you arrive to the time you leave—to complete a whole blood donation. The actual donation time is only about 10 minutes. Whole blood donation is most often given by new donors and is the most common type of donation. We also use special technology to collect specific blood components—red blood cells, platelets and plasma—from donors to best match current patient needs.

Before you roll up your sleeve to help someone else, please take care of yourself:

Eat a healthy, low-fat meal within two hours ahead of your donation. The day before, eat a salty snack. When you donate blood, you lose about a gram of salt. Replacing it ahead of time helps keep your blood pressure normal.
Hydrate by drinking 8 to 16 ounces of non-alcoholic beverages one hour before you donate. Water and sports drinks are great choices.

Q What are the basic blood donation requirements?

Must be at least 16 years old (16- and 17-year-olds must bring a signed permission form from a parent or guardian, if required by state or school).
Weigh at least 110 pounds.
Be in good general health.
For your safety and to ensure a positive donation experience, make sure you eat within two hours ahead of your donation. Drink plenty of water that day and 24 to 48 hours beforehand. Feel free to help yourself to something to eat and drink in our refreshment area.
Bring your ID—something with your name and one of the following: date of birth, donor ID number or your photo.
You must wait eight weeks between whole blood donations. Learn more about specific intervals for other types of donation.
You should not be under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs at the time of donation.
Be sure to check out our website for further details regarding travel and restrictions in relating to COVID-19.

Q Why should I make an appointment?

Our hours vary daily, we are closed for lunches each day, please schedule an appointment.

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