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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

Keeping the blood supply flowing: Spokane donors step up

Vitalant blood donor care manager Sarah Buckley, left, has her temperature checked by courier Teresa Deach as part of preventative safety measures. Staff members have their temperature checked upon arrival in the morning and at midday. (Sherry Kenady / For The Spokesman-Review)
Vitalant blood donor care manager Sarah Buckley, left, has her temperature checked by courier Teresa Deach as part of preventative safety measures. Staff members have their temperature checked upon arrival in the morning and at midday. (Sherry Kenady / For The Spokesman-Review)
By Sherry Kenady For The Spokesman-Review

Blood donors in Spokane have responded en masse to the blood shortages.

“Right now, the blood supply has been stabilized due to a great response. Our concern lies in a couple of weeks to a month from now,” Vitalant Blood Donation Center manager Tesia Hummer said. “We really need the sustained response to last us throughout the COVID-19 prevention effort.”

Other reasons for the blood supply stabilization relate to fewer blood transfusions, due to a reduction in trauma with the stay-home order, fewer people are on the roads and hospitals are postponing nonessential surgery.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week it was updating eligibility requirements for blood donors to address the urgent and immediate need for blood and blood components.

“At the FDA, we want to do everything we can to encourage more blood donations, which includes revisiting and updating some of our existing policies to help ensure we have an adequate blood supply, while still protecting the safety of our nation’s blood supply,” stated Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Based on recent studies and epidemiologic data, the FDA concluded that donor eligibility criteria policies can be modified. This means there are revised recommendations in guidance regarding blood donor eligibility, which are expected to remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Vitalant is aware of the FDA’s recommendations, but has not implemented a change yet.

“While we’re pleased the FDA has loosened some of the blood donation eligibility requirements, it takes time to implement the changes in our health history questionnaire and computer system as well as train staff on the revised criteria,” Hummer said. “We’re working as quickly as possible to assess the opportunities outlined by the FDA and we will share more information as soon as possible on timelines for any changes we determine will be made.”

Vitalant encourages donors and potential donors who are eligible under current guidelines to schedule an appointment to give blood in the coming weeks. Hummer stressed the need for all remaining appointments to stay booked to capacity throughout the rest of this response. She acknowledged a lot of people are frustrated with scheduling availability.

“The appointments help make sure we are collecting what we need, not over, contributing to waste, or collecting under and contributing to a shortage. Blood only has a shelf life of 42 days. It’s not like we can stockpile it past that date. And people are only able to donate whole blood every 56 days,” she said.

The blood centers watch donations closely to have the right balance. Most of the centers are only able to service by appointment but donors can call Vitalant at (877) 258-4825 to find out about walk-in capacity.

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