COVID fatigue is a new term that is often used and for very good reason. As much as the SANBS was declared an essential service, the reality is that blood collections have taken a serious knock, with less people coming forward to donate, SANBS announced today.
The Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) Donor Centre, which holds the record for being the oldest donor centre in the Eastern Cape, recently achieved another record, but certainly not one to be proud of. On Monday September 6 2021, a record low number of only two people donated blood at this site.
“In addition to this, collecting zero or as little as a single unit of blood at some of our mobile blood drives at various organisations has now, unfortunately, become the norm since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” SANBS stated.
The biggest reason for the decline in blood collections is due to uncertainty among donors of their eligibility to donate after having contracted COVID-19 or after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The good news is that anyone who recovered from COVID-19 can donate blood again in as little as 14 days from the date of symptom clearance or within 28 days if they were hospitalised. The most important aspect is that the person who wants to donate blood must feel well and be in good health on the day of donation.
“With the COVID-19 vaccine, there is absolutely no waiting period, as long as the person feels healthy and well on the donation day,” SANBS said.
One of the recent highlights at the SANBS is the move of the Walker Drive Blood Donor Centre in Gqeberha. The donor centre is still based in the same mall, but in a more spacious area, with the entrance on the inside of the mall at the Pick ‘n Pay foyer, next to Bonamia and opposite Clicks. This is the only donor centre in the Eastern Cape that is open seven days a week and it also offers source plasma donation (apheresis) in addition to whole blood donation.
The SANBS also launched a new donor gifting strategy where blood donors will receive a gift, as a token of appreciation, on every second or alternate blood donation. The criteria was reduced from four donations, to only two, which will enable more people to qualify.
Another change was the lowering of haemoglobin or Hb cut-off levels for women to qualify to donate blood. This is determined by testing iron levels prior to donation. The criteria for female donors was lowered from 12.5g/dl to 12.0g/dl and for male donors, increased to 13.0g/dl. Alongside this change, SANBS introduced ferritin testing on all donors, to ensure improved donor care.
A ferritin test measures a person’s iron stores whereas Hb measures iron already in circulation. It is quite common to have a normal Hb with low ferritin levels. Testing for ferritin enables early identification of donors at risk for iron deficiency. A baseline ferritin test will be done on all donors when they donate a unit of blood and thereafter, on every fourth whole blood donation to allow sufficient time to note a change in iron stores. No additional samples will be required from the donor as the testing will be automated using the existing samples. Anyone with ferritin results outside of the normal range will be notified and advised further.
“We rely on the on-going support and commitment from the public to donate blood but also to come forward to host blood drives where they can,” SANBS said.
Blood drive proposals can be submitted online by visiting www.sanbs.org.za.
SANBS appeals to the public to make blood donation one of the constant features in their lifestyle, especially during times of uncertainty and crisis.