Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

COVID-19 hinders blood donations during National Blood Donor Month

Image of Navy Capt. R. Wade Blizzard, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, donates blood for the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Units Diego Garcia walking blood bank on Dec. 17, 2020. The walking blood bank is a list of eligible donors who can provide blood in case of emergency. (U.S. Navy photo by Navy Seaman Apprentice Stevin Atkins). Navy Capt. R. Wade Blizzard, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, donates blood for the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Units Diego Garcia walking blood bank on Dec. 17, 2020. The walking blood bank is a list of eligible donors who can provide blood in case of emergency. (U.S. Navy photo by Navy Seaman Apprentice Stevin Atkins)

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus

ASBP is the military's only blood donor program for service members, their families, retirees, veterans, and local communities worldwide, helping those in critical need. Both whole blood and COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) from those who have recovered from COVID-19 remain in high demand. All 21 donor centers adhere to CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Getting people to donate a pint of their potentially life-saving blood has never been easy. And, like almost every aspect of modern life, COVID-19 has made it even harder.

With strong recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control to keep one’s distance from others and always wear a mask in public, volunteering to go to a facility for about 40 minutes to have blood drawn has not been a priority for many. And then there were the blood drive cancellations — too many to count, for months at a time.

“The public health guidelines to reduce interaction with others, social distancing, reducing time outside the home … it translates into a decreased donor turnout,” said Army Col. Jason Corley, director of the Army Blood Program, from the U.S. Army Medical Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “We’re no different from our civilian blood agency counterparts. They’ve been experiencing the same things since March. Everybody’s trying to do the right thing. Commanders and donors want to be safe and healthy. It makes it difficult to continue and schedule blood drives. It’s just harder to meet our required quota numbers.”

Blood donations followed the wave of the pandemic, he said. Things got better, if not back to normal, during the summer months, only to rapidly drop off again in the fall.

“Now with the resurgence of COVID that really started in November, it’s been going on since,” he said, adding that blood drive cancellations have again increased, and that where some have gone ahead as planned, the number of donors is again down.

So, while January is always a good time for National Blood Donor Month, it is especially true this year.

“In December and January, historically, even without COVID, that’s always a low turnout period due to the holidays, people going on vacation, and due to the weather,” Corley said. “It just is a low time period for collections overall, and then overlay on top of that the third or fourth wave of COVID.”

There are other factors as well for the 21 military donor centers around the world.

Two people laying on tables, donating blood, surrounded by medical personnel
U.S. Navy corpsmen prep volunteers to donate blood and be tested for coronavirus antibodies outside of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Marine Detachment at Camp Pendleton, California, in August 2020. The event was hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program. (Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels.)

“With organizations going into and out of quarantine, service members being placed on ‘restriction of movement’ and changes in our health protection levels, it’s harder to schedule blood drives and make appointments for donors,” said Mark Salcedo, a blood donor recruiter with the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP). “I was talking with a fellow recruiter and she reminded me of all the commands who have their staff teleworking.”

Salcedo said that when the ASBP cannot collect enough blood from donors, the blood bank must reach out to other military donor centers for blood, or even try to buy blood from the civilian market.

Collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma meant blood collection during 2020 took on a new urgency. In April of last year, the FDA approved guidance for manufacture and transfusion of COVID-19 convalescent plasma, Corley explained.

“That has definitely been a product that the military and civilian blood industry has made in great numbers in order to support COVID patients,” he said. “Without a doubt, that blood product is having a great impact. For our standard blood products that we were already making, overall, there isn’t a large blood use for COVID patients — for red blood cells, or platelets, or for whole blood. But for COVID convalescent plasma, it has been approved by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization as a COVID treatment option.”

The convalescent plasma comes from recovered COVID-19 patients whose anti-body levels are at a certain level mandated by FDA, Corley said. Demand for that product has grown as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Friskel, an independent duty medical technician and flight chief at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, has given blood regularly for the past eight years or so.

The process is “super easy,” he said, adding that he was not at all concerned about giving blood during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Basically, you lay down and relax watch a movie — you don’t have to do anything, really.”

But Friskel, a 14-year veteran, is concerned that information is lacking about blood donations and blood banks. He added that mentorship of new troops, such as during the First Term Airmen Course, would be an ideal time to explain the ease of blood donation and its value.

Friskel also suggested senior enlisted personnel getting the message out to fellow airmen over social media more often, or through individual videos aimed at his fellow airmen and women who have never donated before.

“I know when I was deployed, we needed blood all the time,” Friskel said.

These days, deployments are often domestic and include the Reserves and National Guard. And that’s another aspect of giving right now that’s a bit different for service members. Accustomed to protecting American citizens while abroad on the battlefield or on ships at sea, during times of COVID-19 that job can be much simpler with the humble act of a blood donation that could protect a civilian battling the virus in a hospital just down the street. 

“Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Who knows? Is the vaccine going to solve our donor shortage? Only time will tell,” said Salcedo.

“I’ve been at this nearly 40 years both in and out of uniform,” Salcedo added. “I can say this has probably been one of the toughest years for the blood program and for many donor centers. But our leadership and our staff members continue to fight every day because they know the value in what we do for our health care mission.”

You also may be interested in...

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 12 - December 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Brief report: Births, active component, 2001-2010; Brief report: Numbers and characteristics of women in the active component, U.S. Armed Forces; Complications and care related to pregnancy, labor and delivery, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Urinary stones, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Uterine fibroids, active component females, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Historical snapshot: Dr. Anna Baetjer, industrial hygiene pioneer, military occupational health advocate.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 7 - July 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Associations between repeated deployments to OEF/OIF/OND, October 2001-December 2010, and post-deployment illnesses and injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces; Carpal tunnel syndrome, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Herpes zoster, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Plant dermatitis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 1 - January 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Diagnoses of overweight/obesity, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998-2010; Multiple sclerosis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2009; Notices to Readers.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 3 - March 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Motorcycle and other motor vehicle accident-related deaths, U.S. Armed Forces, 1999-2010; Update: Heat injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1999-2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 10 - October 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Relationships between increasing outpatient encounters for neurological disorders and introductions of associated diagnostic codes, active duty military service members, 1998-2010; Alcohol-related diagnoses, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Update: Cold weather injuries, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2006-June 2011; Surveillance Snapshot: Reportable medical events of heat injury in relation to heat index, June-September 2011.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 6 - June 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Duration of service after overweight-related diagnoses, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998-2010; Noise-induced hearing injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007-2010; Acute gastroenteritis outbreak at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington, DC; Surveillance Snapshot: Gastroenteritis-related hospitalizations, 2001-2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 2 - February 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Causes of medical evacuations from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), New Dawn (OND) and Enduring Freedom (OEF), active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, October 2001-September 2010; Cruciate ligament injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2009; Surveillance snapshot: Acute myocardial infarction, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2009.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 5 - May 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Eye injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Stress fractures, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004-2010; Trends in emergency medical and urgent care visits, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Surveillance Snapshot: Emergency departments visits for traumatic brain injury.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 9 - September 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Associations between repeated deployments to Iraq (OIF/OND) and Afghanistan (OEF) and post-deployment illnesses and injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003-2010. Part II. Mental disorders, by gender, age group, military occupation, and "dwell times" prior to repeat (second through fifth) deployments; Animal bites, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Surveillance Snapshot: Influenza immunization among healthcare workers; Surveillance Snapshot: Symptoms diagnosed during traumatic brain injury-related medical encounters, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2008-December 2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 8 - August 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Updates: Routine screening for antibodies to HIV-1, civilian applicants for U.S. military service and U.S. Armed Forces, active and reserve components; Surveillance Snapshot: Service members with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV-1, active component, U.S. Armed Forces; Viral hepatitis A, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Viral hepatitis B, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010; Viral hepatitis C, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 4 - April 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Hospitalizations among members of the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Ambulatory visits among members of the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010; Surveillance Snapshot: Illness and injury burdens among U.S. military recruits, 2010; Surveillance Snapshot: Hospitalizations for suicidal ideation, active component, 2005-2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 18 No. 11 - November 2011

Report
1/1/2011

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Norovirus outbreak associated with person-to-person transmission, U.S. Air Force Academy, July 2011; Notice to readers: Department of Defense laboratory capabilities for testing for norovirus infection; Historical perspective: Norovirus gastroenteritis outbreaks in military forces; Poisoning-related hospitalizations and risk factors for self-inflicted poisoning in the active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2001-2010; Brief report: Morbidity burdens attributable to illnesses and injuries in deployed (per Theater Medical Data Store [TMDS]) compared to nondeployed (per Defense Medical Surveillance System [DMSS]) settings, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 17 No. 3 - March 2010

Report
1/1/2010

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Motor vehicle-related deaths, U.S. Armed Forces, 2009; Update: Heat injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2009; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis among U.S. military members, 2009; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1999-2009; Acute respiratory disease, basic training centers, U.S. Army, March 2008-March 2010; Update: Deployment health assessments, U.S. Armed Forces, February 2010; Sentinel reportable medical events, service members and beneficiaries, U.S. Armed Forces, cumulative numbers through February of 2009 and 2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 17 No. 1 - January 2010

Report
1/1/2010

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Outbreak report: Malaria in a U.S. Marine reserve unit deployed to Benin; Surveillance Snapshot: Influenza reportable events, service members and other beneficiaries, 2009-2010; Update: Deployment health assessments, U.S. Armed Forces, December 2009; Sentinel reportable medical events, service members and beneficiaries, U.S. Armed Forces, cumulative numbers through December of 2008 and 2009; Update: Malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2009; Case report: Fatal outcome of falciparum malaria acquired in Liberia, U.S. Navy member, 2009.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 17 No. 5 - May 2010

Report
1/1/2010

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Temporal characteristics of motor vehicle-related fatalities, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998-2009; Obstructive sleep apnea, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2000-December 2009; Insomnia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2000-December 2009; Surveillance Snapshot: Sleep studies; Surveillance Snapshot: Q fever; Acute respiratory disease, basic training centers, U.S. Army, August 2009-May 2010; Update: Deployment health assessments, U.S. Armed Forces, April 2010; Sentinel reportable medical events, service members and beneficiaries, U.S. Armed Forces, cumulative numbers through April of 2009 and 2010.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 136 - 150 Page 10 of 20
Refine your search
Last Updated: April 28, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.