Canada facing critical shortage of O+ and O- blood supply: Canadian Blood Services

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) only has three days’ worth of O+ and O- blood types, along with only five days’ worth of A+, A- and B- blood types as of Friday, according to its website.

The agency says that donations become “especially needed,” when the supply of these blood types drop below eight days.

In June, CBS said it had reached its smallest donor base in a decade and has struggled to replenish a critically low national supply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since July 1, collections have been steadily decreasing,” CBS said in an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca on Friday.

The agency announced in July it needed to fill 57,000 donation appointment slots by the end of August, shortly after facing backlash the same month for removing its mandatory face mask policy.

The move has led to some donors to say they’re considering cancelling or delaying upcoming appointments.

“Based on our current appointment bookings, we forecast falling short of our collections target by 3,000 units in the upcoming week,” CBS said in the email. “This translates to a drop of 17 per cent in the national inventory of blood products.”

CBS attributes the fall in donations to a drop in availability for potential donors.

“People in Canada are enjoying the return to pre-pandemic activities and summer travel, leaving them with less time to donate,” CBS said.

In addition, CBS currently doesn’t accept donations from gay and bisexual men as well as some other folks in the LGBTQ2S+ community, unless they have been abstinent for three months.

Despite Health Canada authorizing CBS to move away from the blanket ban in April, the national blood donor organization has yet to pivot to screening all donors based on higher risk sexual behaviours, regardless of gender or sexuality. 

The agency says it plans to introduce the new behaviour-based questionnaire approach “no later” than Sept. 30.

There is also an ongoing blood shortage crisis taking place in the U.S. The American Red Cross announced in January that it is facing its worst blood shortage in over a decade amid a surge in Omicron cases leading to “low donor turnouts,” the agency says.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, in a press release at the time.

“We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors.”

According to Red Cross Blood Services, there is a one-year shelf life for frozen plasma, a 42-day shelf life for red blood cells, and a five-day shelf life for platelets for donations.

CBS says thereare 57,000 open appointments that must be filled before the end of August across Canada.

Anyone who wants to donate blood to CBS is being asked to book an appointment on their website.

“It is important to remember that the need for blood, plasma and platelets is constant,” CBS said in the email. “Cancer patients, accident and trauma victims, people undergoing surgery and people with blood disorders rely on blood, platelets and plasma transfusions every day.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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