Blood shortage due to Delta variant requires good stewardship

September 28, 2021 Providence Pulse Content Team

Author: Douglas Blackall, M.D., MPH, medical director, Oregon Core Laboratory and Oregon Regional Blood Bank

As we traverse another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying consequences, it’s important to remember the need for good blood product stewardship.

In 2020, blood product donations were able to keep pace with a falling demand for blood products, as patients stayed home and delayed their care when possible. However, in 2021, donations have not kept pace with an increasing demand for blood products. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. This has led to a serious blood product shortage nationally.

While our Providence Oregon blood supplier, Bloodworks Northwest, largely has been able to meet our needs, we must be judicious in our utilization. Bloodworks Northwest is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides a safe blood supply to hospitals in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Inappropriate use of blood products is never a good idea but could have disastrous consequences in the current environment. According to Bloodworks Northwest, the organization is experiencing one of its lowest sustained inventories in recent history.

Platelet and RBC supplies are at greatest risk. As a special reminder regarding RBCs, best practice dictates using a transfusion threshold of 7 g/dL for nonbleeding patients with symptomatic anemia. In addition, routine RBC transfusions generally should be given one unit at a time, with clinical re-evaluation and retesting of the hemoglobin after each unit is transfused.  

We also need to remind people that, according to the Red Cross, they usually can still donate blood, platelets or plasma after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine is important in determining blood donation eligibility.

As hospitals resume surgical procedures and treatments that may have been temporarily paused during the Delta surge, donors are urged to give now to ensure blood products are readily available for all patients.  

Thank you to our providers for all that you do for our patients at this difficult time. Please feel free to contact me directly ( if I can provide any assistance with your transfusion therapy issues

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