New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS) announced a blood emergency today due in large part to fears of the Omicron variant and the holiday season. Currently, the region’s blood supply stands at a 1-2-day level, well below the ideal inventory of 5-7 days. Blood centers across the country are and have been suffering from shortages for the 19 months of the pandemic.
Many factors complicate the situation, including:
- Donor fatigue from constant urgent/critical messages and a significant decrease in first time donors stepping up to help.
- Working from home is the new normal, preventing many organizations from being able to host successful blood drives.
- Thousands of groups that had supported the blood supply pre-pandemic have not resumed blood drives.
- Widespread fear of COVID-19 infection continues and new fears about Omicron variant keep donors away.
- Most High schools and colleges, which accounted for 25% of our blood donations, have not returned to hosting blood drives.
- Donor confusion over eligibility around vaccination status. (Donors are equally confused about whether having or not having the vaccine impacts their ability to give blood.)
- Currently, there is no national surplus. Prior to the pandemic, a national surplus of blood products would be used to mitigate any regional blood shortages.
Donors can schedule appointments by calling 1-800-933-2566 or visiting www.nybc.org.
The Omicron variant is creating new concern. Donors with upcoming appointments and organizations with upcoming blood drives are cancelling creating extra volatility to the blood supply. Hospitals and patients must be able to rely upon a steady flow of volunteer donors, but the new variant is causing new uncertainty at the worst time of the year, as we head into the winter and holiday season.
“In a normal year, winter is a difficult time to maintain the blood supply. Unpredictable weather, cold and flu season, school breaks, family and holiday travel all contribute to making blood donations less of a priority. Normally, October and November are a time where we build our inventory in anticipation of these challenges, but this year is especially dire without a solid inventory pre-holiday and the news of a new variant,” said Andrea Cefarelli, Senior Executive Director at New Jersey Blood Services. “Donating blood is safe, easy and vital to those who need it. This is the season of giving and there is no better gift to your fellow neighbors then life-saving blood donations.”
Donating blood only takes one hour. We are taking extra precautions to help prevent the person-to-person spread of COVID-19. All NJBS staff are vaccinated. As always, people are not eligible to donate if they’re experiencing a cold, sore throat, respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms. People can donate blood regardless of vaccination status. Additional information on donor eligibility and COVID-19 precautions is available here.