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Central Coast needs more blood donors to keep up with demand 

The blood supply on the Central Coast is the lowest it's been in more than a year, due to a perfect storm of increased use and fewer donors.

Vitalant is a community blood donation nonprofit with locations in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Maria. It currently has less than a two-day supply of type O blood, the most transfused blood type.

click to enlarge GIVE BLOOD With blood supply levels at their lowest in more than a year, blood donation nonprofit Vitalant is calling on the community to donate. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VITALANT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Vitalant
  • GIVE BLOOD With blood supply levels at their lowest in more than a year, blood donation nonprofit Vitalant is calling on the community to donate.

"Overall, we strive to have a four-day supply of all blood types on the shelves," Vitalant Communications Manager Kevin Adler said.

Adler said the local blood supply is at some of the most dire levels he has seen in his four years working at Vitalant.

"The levels of the blood supply right now are lower and less than they were at the beginning of the pandemic," Adler said. "The reason for that is because the hospital usage [of blood donations] is up about 5 percent," plus there's a shortage of donors.

The beginning of the pandemic also saw a large drop in donors, as people stayed home, and community blood drives were canceled. But at the same time, the demand for blood was lower then.

"I don't want to say it was OK to see fewer donors, but it was manageable," Adler said.

Now, the Central Coast is not only seeing fewer donations, but also a higher demand for blood in hospitals.

"There were a lot of elective surgeries that were put off not only by hospitals, but by the individuals," Adler said, that are now being rescheduled and require blood. "And then on top of that, now we're having people go out, do other things, and unfortunately maybe get into accidents, and there is the need for emergency blood."

Cliff Numark, senior vice president of Vitalant, said in a statement that the nonprofit is seeking 1,000 additional volunteer donors to donate blood each week, "to ensure Vitalant can help trauma victims, cancer patients, and critical surgeries."

On average, about half of Vitalant's blood supply is derived from donations at its brick-and-mortar locations, and the other half is from community blood drives, Adler said. Both of these donation avenues have taken a hit.

"[People are] busy doing other things right now because things are freeing up and they feel more at ease on going out and doing things, and making a blood donation is just not a priority," Adler said. "Next is really the cancellation of a lot of community blood drives: Businesses still don't have employees, or they're still reluctant to hold a blood drive at their facility. ... While we do have some school blood drives, we're still seeing schools that are reluctant or unable to hold a blood drive on campus for various reasons."

Vitalant is calling upon the community to make blood donation a priority again.

"It is the blood on the shelf that saves the lives of patients," Susan Noone, Vitalant regional director, said in a statement. "We must ensure those shelves have the blood essential to treat people who most likely never expected to need blood. We need your help. Blood is perishable and must be constantly replenished." Δ

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