World Blood Donor Day: 'Safe blood saves lives' raises awareness amid Covid-19 ...

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As COVID-19 pandemic cripples India, another major crisis that cannot be overlooked is the lack of availability of safe blood for patients, which is a vital healthcare resource regularly used in treatment on various occasions.

On this June 14, which is annually observed worldwide as World Blood Donor Day, it is pertinent to raise wider awareness on the urgent need to increase the availability of safe blood.

This year’s theme for World Blood Donor Day is - ‘Safe blood saves lives’ - which is aimed at providing safe blood to the ones in need.

According to a report published by The Lancet, India has the world’s largest shortage of blood, with all states together battling a huge shortfall of 41 million units and demand outstripping supply by over 400 per cent. The demands are rising, mention the report.

“We have to bring in the aspect of blood donation and health awareness for safe blood as a part of the character-building exercise. There are sections who will get motivated by this and come forward to donate blood. An adequate supply of safe blood can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors if you regularly donate blood at the age of 18 that means you could be giving a chance to at least 120 people,” said Professor (Dr) SK Sarin, Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Delhi.

“In the post-pandemic COVID-19 era, India needs to adopt better screening practices in prevention of disease propagation as it is one of the worst thalassemia affected countries in the world,” added Sarin.

An increase of 11.6 million blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors has been reported from 2008 to 2015. In total, 78 countries collect over 90 per cent of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors; however, 58 countries collect more than 50 per cent of their blood supply from family or replacement or paid donors according to WHO.

“Due to COVID-19 induced lockdown, blood banks across India are facing a shortage of blood components, with demand from patients with thalassemia, cancer, trauma, and emergency interventions largely unmet in the current pandemic situation. It is essential to have at least one good blood bank in each district of India with good regulation and assured the safety of blood transfusion,” said Professor K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India and a member of the ICMR COVID-19 taskforce.

“The oversight has to be provided by the State Blood Transfusion Council and the Food and Drug Administration. There is also a need to initiate the right dialogue with the involvement of multiple stakeholders to establish a robust policy environment for safe-blood transfusion, prioritising the patient’s safety uppermost and thereby preventing deaths from transfusion-transmitted infections,” added Reddy.

Speaking on the issue, Delhi based TPAG member, Anubha Taneja Mukherjee said, “As a citizen of this country, a tax-payer and a legal professional, it is difficult for me to understand as to how can so many resources invested in thalassemia pre and post NHM be allowed to be sacrificed to a single bag of infected blood!”

“It is equally difficult for me to understand as to how a patient of thalassemia getting transfusion in a government hospital in Bengaluru get NAT tested blood (Several studies show how NAT along with conventional serological testing can reduce the residual risk while blood transfusion to a great extent and help to get safe blood to patients) and another one sitting in Jharkhand get whole blood. The situation with blood donation practices is the same. Are we one country?” Mukherjee added.

According to a study by the ICMR, one out of every 18 births is a thalassemia carrier in Delhi. In Delhi, around 200 births of Thalassaemia major takes place every year. All these patients require repeated and regular blood transfusion (every two to four weeks) and iron chelation therapy for survival.

The average cost per patient is Rs 50,000-Rs 2,00,000 per year, which is bound to increase further with inflation. A thalassaemic child on average requires 30 units of blood every year. All these thalassaemia major births can be completely prevented through awareness/sensitisation and timely screening.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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