On World Blood Donor Day, health experts and patient advocacy groups espoused for promoting blood donation and stressed on its safety aspect in view of paucity of blood amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has been appealing to voluntary organisations, NGOs and people at large time and again to come forward and donate blood to maintain ample stocks to meet any eventuality in the country.
“While the availability of safe blood has been a matter of concern in India, the COVID-19 pandemic has further deepened the gaps in blood donation and transfusion practices as voluntary blood donation is becoming rare,” said Anubha Taneja Mukherjee, a member of a Delhi-based thalassemia patients advocacy group.
In some cases, patients are forced to move from safe blood transfusion practices like voluntary blood donation and nucleic acid testing (NAT) regime, a molecular technique for screening blood donations to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections, to a regressive blood testing regime because of the lockdown, she said.
Ms. Mukherjee said the situation is even more difficult for those patients who are more susceptible to transfusion-transmitted infections due to repeated blood transfusions and surely have a greater reason to be concerned about the quality of blood.
This year, World Blood Donor Day is focused on the theme ‘safe blood saves lives’ and calls for action to provide adequate resources and put in place systems and infrastructures to increase blood collection from voluntary, non-remunerated donors, to provide quality donor care and to set up systems for the oversight and surveillance on the whole chain of blood transfusion.
Director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Delhi, Dr. S.K. Sarin said, “We have to bring in the aspect of blood donation and health awareness for safe blood as a part of character-building exercise. There are sections who will get motivated by this and come forward to donate blood.”“An adequate supply of safe blood can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors. If you regularly donate blood at the age of 18 that means you could be giving a chance to at least 120 people,” he said.
After the coronavirus pandemic blows over, India needs to adopt better screening practices for prevention of disease propagation as it is one of the worst thalassemia affected countries in the world, Mr. Sarin said.Interestingly, an increase of 11.6 million blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors has been reported from 2008 to 2015. In total, 78 countries collect over 90% of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors; however, 58 countries collect more than 50% of their blood supply from family/replacement or paid donors, according to WHO.
Professor K. Srinath Reddy, the president of Public Health Foundation of India, and a member of the ICMR COVID-19 taskforce said, “Blood banks across India are facing shortages of blood components, with demand from patients with thalassemia, cancer, trauma and emergency interventions largely unmet in the current pandemic situation. It is essential to have at least one good blood bank in each district of India with good regulation and assured the safety of blood transfusion.”“The oversight has to be provided by the State Blood Transfusion Council and the Food and Drug Administration. There is also a need to initiate the right dialogue with the involvement of multiple stakeholders to establish a robust policy environment for safe-blood transfusion, prioritising the patient’s safety uppermost and thereby preventing deaths from transfusion-transmitted infections,” he said.