By Sangmi Cha
From Seoul to Paris and Moscow to Bangkok, concerned citizens line up for vaccines as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. This may ease the pressure on extended hospitals around the world, but with it comes a hangover – a severe shortage of blood donors.
A number of countries do not allow people who have just been vaccinated to donate blood, as well as those recovering from coronavirus. While others are simply staying home as new infections increase, doctors say donor pools have shrunk to alarming levels, threatening urgent operations.
In South Korea, struggling with record cases, donors cannot donate blood for seven days after a COVID-19 vaccine injection – and the supply fell to just 3.2 days last week against 6.5 days at this time last year, according to the Korean Red Cross.
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) has launched a blood drive, starting with the doctors themselves, warning that patients requiring urgent surgery or transfusions could face emergency situations, told Reuters KMA spokesperson Park Soo-hyun.
âThere have been more and more times that hospitals are telling us about postponement of surgeries or treatments and overcrowding due to lack of blood,â Park said.
The recurring waves of infections, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the spread of blockages have started to take a greater toll on donations, according to a Reuters review of the situation in various countries.
In Thailand, confirmed cases topped one million on Friday, with authorities reporting a record increase in deaths in recent weeks.
“Due to the COVID situation, not many people donate blood, so there is not enough and some surgeries have to be postponed,” said Piya Kiatisewi, bone cancer surgeon at Lerdsin Hospital from Bangkok.
Like South Korea, Russia bans donating blood to fully vaccinated people – but for an entire month, not just seven days. It also does not accept blood from those in the middle of the COVID-19 vaccination cycle.
The Kommersant business daily reported last week that donor activity in Russia has collapsed, hit by the vaccination campaign, with blood service workers in six different regions reporting the problem to the newspaper.
In the United States, the donated blood supply – already strained by the pandemic – tightened further in the spring as hospitals stepped up surgeries that had been suspended, according to Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer of the United States. AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks.
According to US guidelines, people receiving authorized vaccines do not have to wait to donate blood, but people receiving a different type of vaccine, possibly in another country, should wait 14 days.
Certainly, in Western Europe, concerns about vaccine donations have been exacerbated by the traditional summer vacation period.
The French blood supply agency, the French Blood Establishment (EFS), said stocks were too tight for comfort. He said there were 85,000 pockets of red blood cells in reserve, below a comfortable level of 100,000 or more.
“No sick person will miss a transfusion, but we are worried about September,” an EFS spokesperson told Reuters, as the volume of surgeries generally increases.
In Italy, the National Blood Center said there were worrying shortages in a number of regions, including Lazio, centered on the capital Rome, which had led some hospitals to postpone planned operations to keep stocks. in case of emergency. He blamed the shortage mainly on the fact that many people were on vacation and the lack of staff in some collection centers.
“FEAR OF MAKING A DONATION”
Across Europe, donation levels have also been hampered by uncertainty over whether people can donate blood if they have not been vaccinated, officials in various countries have said. Spain’s Health Ministry, for example, launched an appeal for donations this week, telling people it is safe to donate during the pandemic.
In Greece, “people are afraid to go to donate blood to hospitals because of the coronavirus,” said Konstantinos Stamoulis, scientific director of the Hellenic National Blood Center in Athens. âThere are days when there is a reduction of up to 50% in blood donation compared to 2019,â he said.
Back in Asia, many countries are now facing their most severe coronavirus outbreak to date amid the wave of Delta variants.
In Vietnam, the country’s National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion said it could only meet 50-70% of demand.
“We have not been able to deploy mobile donor centers,” said Le Hoang Oanh, head of the blood transfusion center at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of the coronavirus in Vietnam. .
“Instead, we need to call on donors to come to our permanent centers, which is a challenge given the restrictions on movement in the city.”