(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Blood donations are urgently needed statewide as the number of donors has significantly decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson and officials from five major blood banks — the Miller-Keystone Blood Center in the Lehigh Valley, the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region, the Central Pennsylvania Blood BankVitalant Blood Center based in Pittsburgh, and the Community Blood Bank of Northwest PA and Western NY — highlighted the importance of donating blood Thursday.

“There is a critical shortage of blood across Pennsylvania and the nation, as COVID-19 has prevented some donors from giving blood and impacted the scheduling of blood drives,” Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Blood is essential for surgeries, traumatic injuries, cancer treatment and chronic illnesses, which is why it is so important for individuals to go to their local blood bank or find a blood drive near them and donate. An adequate supply of blood is essential to ensure Pennsylvanians have safe, continuous access to the highest quality of health care.” 

All blood types are needed, especially Type O, which is often used in emergencies when there is not enough time to determine a patient’s blood type. 

“As the supplier of 40 percent of our nation’s blood supply, and in solidarity with all Pennsylvania blood collection organizations, the American Red Cross stands with the Pennsylvania Department of Health in asking every Pennsylvanian feeling healthy and well to make an appointment to donate today,” Dr. John Nobiletti, Medical Director for the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region said. 

“Across the U.S., the demand for blood has increased between five percent and 25 percent compared to the same time period in 2019,” Dr. Kip Kuttner, Medical Director for the Miller-Keystone Blood Center said. “This reinforces the critical need for increased blood donations now.”  

“A significant factor contributing to blood shortages is a decrease in the amount of people entering the field of phlebotomy,” Patrick Bradley, President and CEO of Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank said. “There is a high demand for these positions as it requires a unique skillset. To help with this challenge, Pennsylvania blood centers provide the necessary education and training to begin a career in phlebotomy.”   

“Blood banks have a constant urgent need for O-negative blood,” Joseph E. Kiss, Medical Director of Clinical Apheresis and Blood Services at Vitalant Blood Center said. “Because O-negative blood is universally compatible for patients with any blood type, it is almost always in short supply. In an effort to improve the availability of this blood group for transfusion patients, Vitalant is working with hospitals to closely monitor utilization of Rh-negative inventory. One of our goals is to develop policies for patients to be given Rh-positive blood to avoid depletion of the O-negative supply.” 

“We can no longer assume that blood will be there when it is needed, or that someone else will step up to donate it,” Deanna Renaud, Executive Director for the Community Blood Bank of NWPA & WNY said. “An adequate blood supply is the responsibility of everyone living in a community. Every donation matters.” 

The following requirements are needed to donate blood: 

  •       Be in good health
  •       16-years-old or older
  •       Weigh a minimum of 120 pounds

To donate blood, make an appointment with a local blood bank or visit an upcoming blood drive in your community.  

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