Donating blood, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, is vital to saving lives

As we continue to live through a global pandemic, where many aspects of our lives have dramatically changed, there are many critical challenges that have not gone away. For World Blood Donor Day, we want to shine a light on one of these, the ongoing importance of donating blood.

Even prior to the pandemic, there have consistently been difficulties in having sufficient blood supplies to meet the demand. This need has been further impacted as donations have fallen since the start of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

Blood transfusions in critical emergencies, such as trauma, post-partum haemorrhage, severe infant anaemia and urgent surgeries require the timely and safe availability of blood. When we consider that blood transfusion was the most common procedure performed, during hospitalizations, in 2011 and that the rate of hospitalizations with blood transfusions have more than doubled since 1997, any shortfall in availability is a crucial topic for society to address.

Who has access to blood?

Health is a human right; everyone in the world should have access to safe blood transfusions, when and where they need them. However, there are great variations between countries in terms of access to safe supplies of blood.

While there are challenges in blood supplies everywhere in the world, a disproportionate amount of donations and availability is in high-income countries. Increasing access in low-income countries is thus a key priority.

In high-income countries, the most frequently transfused patient group is over 60 years of age, which accounts for up to 75% of all transfusions. In low-income countries, up to 54% of transfusions are for children under the age of 5 years. These high-risk populations are dependent on donations for their survival.

What is blood safety?

When giving or receiving blood, it is important to ensure the blood is safe. Blood screening is used to determine whether there may be any viruses that could pass between the donor and the recipient. Some screening tests are recommended, worldwide, including HIV, HBV with HBsAg, HCV and Syphilis.

Testing recommendations need to be adapted to the situations in each country and region because of geographical factors, such as disease prevalence or travel history to high prevalence regions, qualifications of desirable donor profiles, additional testing for first-time donors or to follow-up on initial screening results.

Therefore, depending on local or regional recommendations, additional tests should be performed, such as for HBV, HTLV, Zika, Chagas, CMV, HEV or other relevant infectious diseases. In doing this, the risk of spreading viruses and harming blood donation recipients is minimized.

How can you make a difference?

Regular blood donations are needed all over the world, especially in developing countries, to ensure individuals and communities have access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products.

An individual giver can make a big contribution to improve the health for others in the community.

Everyone who can donate blood should consider making regular voluntary, unpaid donations, so that all countries have adequate blood supplies.

Even during times like the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, donation centres are set up to safely take blood and make sure it can reach the areas it is needed.

Put simply, giving blood saves lives.

Be a Donor. Be a Hero.

Blood donation facts
  • Did you know that someone in the world needs blood every TWO seconds?
  • Or that four from five people need at least 1x time in their life blood or a blood product
  • To take the example of Switzerland, it means that, 80% of the population would require a blood product at least once in their life, but only 2.5% donate blood regularly
  • Just ONE donation, taking about 15 minutes, can potentially save up to three lives
  • About 120 million blood donations are made, annually
Donor Hero mosaic

Be a part of the bigger picture

Blood Donor Hero Mosaic

In this picture mosaic, we celebrate blood donor heroes worldwide because the world needs more unsung champions like you. We invite you to share your picture to show your support for increased blood donation worldwide.