The low supply is posing a risk to patients and forcing doctors to decide who gets blood transfusions now and who will have to wait until more supply becomes available, according to the organization.
Because of the shortage, the Red Cross started limiting blood product distributions to hospitals. The group estimates that up to a quarter of blood needs at hospitals aren’t being met.
The shortage comes after the number of people donating blood declined about 10 percent starting in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, including some 62 percent less at colleges and schools. During the pandemic, some blood drives have been canceled, and staff shortages have made things even more difficult.
“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross, said in a statement. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”
The group is also asking for volunteers to help collect blood. Volunteers perform tasks such as greeting, registering, and answering questions.
January is National Blood Donor Month. The Red Cross and NFL are offering entry into a lottery to win tickets to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles to those who donate in January.
Local organizations also say they have low supplies of blood, including Carter BloodCare in Texas.
Nearly 18 million blood transfusions take place in the United States every year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Transfusions are carried out for patients suffering traumatic injuries, getting a surgical procedure, and receiving cancer treatment, among other scenarios.
Nearly all blood donations are provided by volunteers who go to nonprofit blood centers or collection sites at hospitals. However, donations have been on the decline in recent years, experts say.
In cases where blood is not immediately available, lives can be lost, the department warns.