As India has widened its vaccination programme's age limit, fears of a possible blood shortage are looming across the country.
Blood banks and patients with blood-related disorders are concerned about the availability of blood due to rules that disallow an inoculated person from donating blood for 28 days after receiving the jab. Meanwhile, the lack of blood donation camps as well as a decrease in voluntary donations as a result of the lockdowns may also contribute to such a shortage. However, in order to prevent this, blood banks and NGOs across the country are urging people to donate blood before getting vaccinated.
People suffering from diseases like Thalassemia need fresh blood (donated within a 7 to 10-day period) for transfusion. As per doctors, people aged between 18 and 45 donate blood most frequently. Several doctors have also said that fears associated with catching an infection from public places such as hospitals and blood banks have also led to low donor turnout.
Amid these concerns, India's Blood Transfusion Council recently stated that it had revised its guidelines to reduce the deferral period between a COVID-19 vaccine dose and blood donation from four weeks to two weeks. As per reports, the council has also said that they are maintaining a sufficient stock of blood.
While speaking to Sputnik, Dr Anand S. Deshpande, consultant transfusion medicine, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC, said: "As per the guidelines issued earlier by the centre, we needed to have a gap of at least 28 days after the vaccination to donate blood. So that would have caused a problem as someone taking two doses of immunisation would not be able to donate blood for almost 70 days (28-day gap after each dose). But recently, as per the expert's advice, the government alongside the national Blood Transfusion Council has changed it to 14 days, which is quite a relief. So anyone who is vaccinated today can donate blood after 14 days. There would be a shortage of blood during this period, but also the number of planned surgeries across the country has also come down. Patients with low haemoglobin, cancer patients, and thalassemia children require blood regularly. There is no doubt about facing a blood shortage, but we should be able to tackle it. I encourage individuals, especially in the age group of 18-44, to please donate blood at the nearest blood banks before getting vaccinated".
Meanwhile, several Indian states are reporting dwindling sources of blood. Stocks, particularly of negative blood groups, are depleting rapidly at blood banks in Andhra Pradesh due to a lack of donors. All 18 blood banks of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), private blood banks, and banks attached to district hospitals are seeing a shortage, as per reports. Last month, Maharashtra was in midst of an acute blood shortage due to a drop in blood donations.
Dr Tapti Mohapatra, consultant-transfusion medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, told Sputnik: "Yes we are looking at the possibility of blood shortage across the country. As the vaccination is now open to anyone above 18 years and it will cause problems, as people who belong to this age group are major donors. So to prevent this crisis they can donate blood first and after a few days can go for vaccination".