Getting access to safe and secure blood has been a constant problem in India. The rate of blood donation in the nation amounts to only 1 per cent of the population, and the pandemic only intensified the issue. India encountered a huge shortage of blood due to strict social distancing norms, elimination of numerous blood drives, and low donor turnout due to COVID-19 crisis. In April 2020, many leading organisations raised an alarm that voluntary donation had fallen by almost 100 per cent. While the rate of blood donation dropped drastically, the requirement for blood stayed constant. Shortage of blood in the past few months is said to be detrimental to those who are in crucial need of blood and blood components, like those with thalassemia and severe anaemia, instances of severe blood loss, road traffic accidents, antepartum and postpartum haemorrhage, and patients needing urgent surgeries.
As this became a major cause of concern, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) released guidelines for safe donation of blood during the ongoing pandemic. It states that blood donation can still be done after in the wake of guidelines for the safety of both donors, and the drive organisers. Likewise, the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) also released the guidelines that highlighted the continuousness of supply of safe blood and suggested reinstating both outdoor and in-house donations, in compliance with social distancing standards, biomedical-waste disposal rules, and infection control guidelines. Rules & regulations state that people are at no risk of developing COVID-19 through a blood transfusion or via a blood donation process.
Moreover, in the last few months, the MoHFW and the state government of Maharashtra have been working on new protocols, urging people to donate blood. Having said that, this challenge will only solve if people overcome fear and come up to donate blood.
Blood donation – The greatest act of giving
Blood donation is the biggest act of kindness and at a time where the world is facing one of the greatest health crisis, it is important to donate blood and safeguard safer donation drives. Though, most people are uncertain about blood donation and have many questions in their mind.
Who can and cannot donate blood?
As per the NBTC, blood can be donated 28 days post-COVID recovery or discharge from a treating facility or 28 days after home isolation ends. Furthermore, very mild, mild, pre-symptomatic, moderate, and severe COVID-19 cases must be deferred for 28 days from donating blood after discharge from a treating facility or 28 days after the end of home isolation.
What are some of the safety measures that blood donation organisers need to think about?
- Social distancing measures should be followed at all blood donation sites. These actions include physical distance, restriction on social norms of handshaking and hugging, lowering overcrowding, managing blood donation couches such that one-metre distance is kept between two blood collection areas, requesting donors in a staggered manner.
- For the collection of convalescent plasma, the guidelines said that systems should be in place to allow re-entry of cured COVID-19 patients as donors for convalescent plasma for treatment of those affected by the coronavirus.
- Blood donation centres and camp organisers should teach staff and donors on these procedures and provide facilities like running water, soap, hand sanitisers, personal protective equipment, color-coded dustbins.
- Hand hygiene and coughing etiquette must be retained strictly by all.
- Also, safe disposal of used gloves, masks, caps, and soiled material should be ensured. Protocols for appropriate cleanliness of the equipment used during the blood donation should be maintained.
- Follow procedures for cleaning and disinfecting and increasing the regularity rate of these activities.
What are the precautions that donors need to take?
For donors it is very simple, sustain good respiratory hygiene. COVID testing is not mandatory before blood donation, as transfusion associated COVID is very rare. However, if a person is undergoing fever or sore throat in the past 1/2 weeks, he/she needs to report it before think about blood donation. All donors need to take universal safety measures like social distancing measures, wearing masks, and proper hand sanitisation during donation.
Before donating blood, make sure you:
- Drink enough water
- Get enough rest
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
- Avoid heavy physical activity
- Eat enough food rich in iron and protein
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