National blood donation shortage a ‘major concern’ in Pennsylvania

Donors give blood at a drive in Rutland, Vermont. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Donors give blood at a drive in Rutland, Vermont. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Pennsylvania health officials said Thursday that a decrease in blood donations is a “major concern” when it comes to delivering medical care in the commonwealth.

In January, the American Red Cross sounded the alarm about a national blood crisis, as stores of lifesaving blood and platelets hit their lowest numbers in more than 10 years.

“The critical shortage of blood across Pennsylvania and the nation is still a major concern as COVID-19 has prevented some donors from giving blood and impacted the scheduling of blood drives,” said Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson.

Donated blood is a regular part of both hospital and outpatient care, used in everything from major surgery to helping treat illnesses such as anemia or kidney disease, according to the Department of Health.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“An adequate supply of blood is essential to ensure Pennsylvanians have safe, continuous access to the highest quality of health care,” said Johnson.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for donated blood has risen even as opportunities to donate have fallen. Last year, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania noted that the demand for blood had increased as much as 25% since 2019. Since the coronavirus pandemic started, there has been a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood, according to the Red Cross.

Labor shortages also play a role in the decline in therapeutic blood. “A significant factor contributing to blood shortages is a decrease in the amount of people entering the field of phlebotomy,” said Patrick Bradley, President and CEO of Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank.

Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are used every day in the United States. A unit is approximately equivalent to one pint. Type O blood, also known as the universal donor, is the type most requested by hospitals.

State officials and blood bank management urged Pennsylvanians who are able to donate blood, at one of five regional banks. They are:

The only requirements are to be at least 16 years old, in good health and weigh at least 120 pounds. A COVID-19 vaccine is not required to donate blood, provided all other criteria are met.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal