In the Corona pandemic, blood is in short supply

Image by Robert DeLaRosaYou can't do without blood donations - that also applies during a pandemic. However, safety concepts become all the more important during the Corona period. After all, we want to protect both the full-time and voluntary employees of the DRK blood donation service, as well as the donors from the fear of possible infection when donating blood. Since last week, the DRK-Nordost has therefore been applying the 3G regulation. Access is only granted to people who can prove their status as vaccinated, recovered, or tested. The rapid antigen test must not be older than 24 hours or a PCR test not older than 48 hours.

"A mainstay of our work is the protection of donors* at the appointments, without whose voluntary commitment many fellow human beings would have no chance of survival," says DRK spokeswoman Kerstin Schweiger. Although the DRK-Nordost has received a very, very large amount of support from donors since "the beginning of the pandemic," Schweiger says, "in recent weeks there has been a slight decline in the willingness to donate."

The end of the lockdowns in May 2020 and June 2021 had previously been difficult for the German Red Cross blood transfusion service. After that, the demand for blood donations jumped by about 30 percent, because many operations or cancer treatments that had been postponed during the lockdown were made up for. In some cases, the reserves were only enough for one day, says Kerstin Schweiger. At present, the company has a stock reserve of just under two days. "Ideally, there would be five days' supply," says Schweiger, "but we never managed that during the pandemic." In Berlin and Brandenburg, around 600 blood donations are needed every day; nationwide, there are 15,000 blood donations. One blood donation can help up to three seriously ill or injured people.

"The current uncertainty about the further development of the infection situation can change the situation in the short term," says Schweiger: "The short shelf life of blood preparations also contributes to the tense situation." With the 3G regulation, which of course also applies to the DRK employees, one would like to take away all fears from the donors*. For this reason, the previously obligatory breakfast for donors has also been discontinued at the donation stations. Instead, there is a well-filled snack bag. In addition, donors are asked to book an appointment in advance so that no queues form or people get too close. Appointments can be made at https://terminreservierung.blutspende-nordost.de or by calling the free hotline on 0800 11 949 11.

The intention of the future traffic light coalition in the federal government to no longer exclude homosexual men from donating blood does not concern the DRK blood donation service at the moment. "We welcome any opportunity that allows people to donate blood," says the DRK spokeswoman. "We are abolishing the ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men and for trans people, by law if necessary," reads page 122 of the future German government's coalition agreement. The blood donation ban has been criticized by gay associations for years as discriminatory. A new regulation "will, of course, be implemented by us," Schweiger said. However, he said, the Federal Medical Association and the Paul Ehrlich Institute were responsible for amending the guidelines.

Until recently, the guideline stipulated that "persons whose sexual behavior carries a significantly increased risk of transmission" for infectious diseases such as HIV compared to the general population "must be deferred from donation" for twelve months. Explicitly named were "heterosexual persons with frequently changing partners", prostitutes, "transsexual persons with sexual risk behavior" and generally also "men who have sexual intercourse with men". This blackout period had already been shortened to four months in the summer due to ongoing criticism. The FDP and the Greens had criticized the waiting period as discriminatory. This would imply that groups of people as a whole "have an unreflective and risky sexual behavior". The decisive factor for an infection risk is not the sexual or gender identity of a person, but the actual risk behavior.



Image by Robert DeLaRosa

 


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