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SA blood service running low on supply due to Covid-19

SOUTH African National Blood Service has reported that they are running below the recommended five-day supply and are at risk of being unable to fully meet demand across the country. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

SOUTH African National Blood Service has reported that they are running below the recommended five-day supply and are at risk of being unable to fully meet demand across the country. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 27, 2022

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Cape Town - The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is currently experiencing a shortage of blood supply as blood stocks over the last year have decreased due to Covid-19.

SANBS is running below the five-day supply recommended by the World Health Organisation and would need 3 500 units of blood donated daily in order to keep up with 810 000 transfusions given annually.

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SANBS has reported that less than one percent of the South African population donates blood regularly with a shelf life of only 42 days. SANBS medical director Dr Karin van den Berg said the shortage was a result of the blood drives not being as active as before.

“Our traditional hunting grounds for donors, where traditionally we went to find our donors, have completely changed. About 60% of our blood was collected through our mobile blood drives.

“Covid-19 has resulted in people working from home and so nobody is at work to get them to donate and the same thing has happened at schools and universities,” Van den Berg said.

She said because they want donors to be as safe as possible, Covid-19 protocols and the thorough nature of making sure equipment is safe to use takes a lot of time.

“Our ability to collect the same number of units in the same amount of time was severely affected and people would stay away if they didn’t feel safe coming to our donor site, so that really contributed significantly to fewer donors present to donate blood,” Van den Berg said.

Another factor contributing to the low supply is hesitance from people who are unsure whether one can donate once you’ve been vaccinated. Solidarity Fund adviser Dr Saul Johnson has said it is not possible for the vaccine to be passed on.

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“It is not possible to pass on the vaccine to someone who has received your blood donation because once the vaccine has stimulated the immune response, it breaks down and does not remain in your body. This generally happens about two or three days after receiving the vaccine. You can therefore donate and receive blood safely,” Johnson said.

Van den Berg has urged donors to go directly to the SANBS to donate, and encouraged employers to contact the local blood service and invite them to their offices.

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