Home Health Holiday season could impact blood platelet supply

Holiday season could impact blood platelet supply

Wednesday December 26, 2018 ~ NATIONAL.

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. ~ West Shore Voice News

While the overall supply of all blood types is fairly strong as Canadians head into the holiday season, the interruption of a busy shopping weekend, Christmas Eve on a Monday, with Christmas and Boxing Day on Tuesday/Wednesday, is logistically seeing some people with extended time away. If they are regular donors they might miss the opportunity to give.

On December 15 it looked like inventory levels were good heading into the holiday season. “It’s probably one of the strongest inventories we’ve had in years,” said David Patterson, Director of Donor Relations BC & Yukon, Canadian Blood Services.

blood supply, canada, December 15 2018
Blood supply levels in Canada as of December 15, 2018 [Source: www.blood.ca]
Canadian Blood Services is a non-profit corporation that manages the national supply of blood products for all the provinces and territories (excluding Quebec). Many variables can impact their ability to maintain blood inventory in the year-end holiday season including weather (interrupting the donation process) or tragic events (situations calling for more blood).

As of December 15, the most widely available O+ blood type was at 10 days supply, with B+ at 13 days and AB+ at 16 days. The lowest supply was for O- (the universal blood type that can be given to any recipient) at 4 days.

But on December 17 out went the usual seasonal call to remind Canadians of the importance of donating blood around the holiday season. The platelet component of blood has only a seven-day shelf life. Platelets are the component of blood that helps with clotting after injury or blood loss. Anyone with low platelets or improperly functioning platelets (e.g. cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy) need platelet transfusions. Platelets can only be separated during live blood donation; they cannot be produced from blood inventory that is already in stock. And the holiday season is therefore likely to interfere with platelet supply.

About 50% of Canadians meet the eligibility criteria to give blood (determined by answering about 57 questions), but only one in 60 (1.6%) donates.

canadian blood services, blood donors, mobile blood clinic, colwood, vancouver island
Mobile blood donor clinic as set up at Church of the Advent in Colwood [file photo March 2018 – West Shore Voice News]
The safety of both patients and donors are considered, although “the patient bears the ultimate risk of any donation,” says Patterson. But many eligibility restrictions have been relaxed over recent years, explains Patterson.

“All the restrictions are science-based,” he says. That includes reducing the number of months that men in sexual relationships with men must wait to donate (at one time it was five years, then one year, now it’s three months).

One of the biggest restrictions right now is if a donor has travelled to areas of the world where malaria is prevalent (that includes Mexico, areas of South America, and India); the World Health Organization recommends a one-year deferral for anyone who has travelled to these regions, and Canadian Blood Services heeds that advisory.

Another restriction was increased in recent years, and that’s how often adult women can donate blood. To maintain their hemoglobin supply as donors, the donation interval for women is now 12 weeks (whereas for men the interval is eight weeks between donations). Some medications in the bloodstream are also a restriction for donating blood. More on eligibility

“We’ve relaunched our brand this year,” says Patterson. He emphasizes the impact of going digital as a way to attract younger donors. “The next generation of donors” are younger and people who interact digitally to whom Canadian Blood Services hopes the new slogan of blood donors being “Canada’s life line” is more appealing than the previous theme of “continue to give”.

Digital engagements including email reminders and being able to fill out forms online or on computers at the clinics as a time-saver for donors and more in-keeping with their lifestyle.

This article was first published on page 4 in the December 21, 2018 print/PDF subscriber’s edition of West Shore Voice News.