The Challenges of Blood Collection

Over the last decade, the dynamics of blood donation, collection, and distribution have changed dramatically. An aging population, a more dispersed workforce, and greater travel abroad are among the factors making blood collection increasingly difficult. If these trends persist, a critical blood shortage could result. Now more than ever, greater public awareness must be raised to overcome this challenge. It’s more than donating blood. Blood Science Foundation supports an entire system of people, technology, equipment, research, and philanthropy that works behind the scenes to supply our blood.

The Blood Collection Ecosystem:
The Science Behind the Supply

From cultivating blood donor loyalty to a blood transfusion at a patient’s bedside, Blood Science Foundation, in support of Vitalant®, is responsible for the fundraising efforts aiding and improving the entire blood donation ecosystem in the regions we serve. These efforts continue to save countless lives.

Donor Awareness

There is no substitute for blood. The only way to establish a safe and ample blood supply in support of an effective healthcare system is through community donations and financial support. To this end, a loyal donor base must be recruited and maintained. This requires outreach and public awareness efforts.

Donation Facilities

Donation centers and remote blood drives are at the core of Vitalant’s collection efforts. These centers and mobile donation vehicles must be safe, clean, and modern. Blood Science Foundation raises funds to innovate and update these assets as well as find new ways to collect and test blood donated by the public.

Laboratory Services and
Blood Testing

All blood collected must be carefully tested and screened for obvious safety reasons. Blood Science Foundation supports the people, technology, and procedures required to ensure the highest safety standards are met. Blood collected by Vitalant is also used in research efforts to track the spread of disease in real-time, develop antibody treatments for viruses, and gain a deeper insight into epidemiological events.

Inventory and Distribution

The shelf-life for a single unit of blood is 42 days. Blood Science Foundation is funding research into methods that will increase this shelf-life, expanding the use and effectiveness of each unit of blood. Vitalant plays a key role in the safe and timely distribution of donated blood to the hospital systems it serves.

Clinical Services

Vitalant also contributes to the treatment requirements of stem cell transplant patients who are waiting for lifesaving hematological transplants worldwide. The services provided include centralized transfusion services, an immunohematology reference lab, public cord blood banking, and total blood management.

Patient Transfusion

Whether it’s for an emergency room procedure, ongoing cancer care, or a life-saving transplant operation, all the work Vitalant and Blood Science Foundation provide translates directly into saving lives. Without blood, these medical procedures wouldn’t be possible.

Key Areas of Impact

Overcoming Urgent Blood Shortages

Like many products and services, blood is subject to the laws of supply and demand. Its shelf life is relatively brief; therefore Vitalant’s blood supply requires constant replenishment. In the Pittsburgh region, for instance, approximately 50% of the blood supply is locally donated with a small portion being rejected for safety reasons. Blood collection is also seasonal with the summer months and holidays seeing decreased activity at donation centers. To overcome these challenges and maintain an adequate blood supply, Vitalant must purchase and/or import blood from other regions of the country. In times of vital necessity, your financial contributions can support the purchase of additional blood required for urgent, life-saving medical procedures.

There is no substitute for blood. It must be donated from charitable individuals with all blood types. Therefore, our healthcare systems depend on the generosity of the public. A primary mission of Blood Science Foundation is to raise awareness and keep blood collection top-of-mind among the public. This requires effective and frequent public relations efforts.

The Foundation also supports Vitalant’s High School Scholarship Program, which awards scholarship funds to local high schools around Pittsburgh and Chicago that host blood drives. Over the last three years, Blood Science Foundation and Vitalant have contributed over one million dollars.

Over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world looks at health and safety. Wherever we go, however we walk through life, we must always be thinking about washing our hands, wearing a mask, and keeping a safe distance from those around us. At Blood Science Foundation, we’re also reacting to these realities. We are procuring funding to allow Vitalant to renovate their community donor centers to guarantee a safer donation process for both donors and employees to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Vitalant is training their staff with respect to social distancing and other mitigation techniques.

In partnership with Vitalant, Blood Science Foundation is embarking on a new and ambitious initiative to raise funds for blood research and innovation that can potentially help transform medicine, patient care, and public health on a national level. With a large number of blood centers across the country, Vitalant, with support from the Foundation, is in a unique position to leverage this supply, providing real-time insights and data into unfolding healthcare emergencies. As new viral threats from Zika and COVID-19 continue to arise and other financially-challenged donation centers close down their research capabilities, this initiative is even more crucial. Blood Science Foundation is actively and aggressively seeking meaningful partnerships and benefactors to support this research effort and help reverse this trend of declining blood testing.

“Our research programs are developing new approaches to improve the safety of blood transfusions, specifically by identifying the genetics of red blood cell donors in an effort to identify normal common genetic variations that make blood safer and more effective after storage and transfusion.”
Mark T. Gladwin, M.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine
Director, Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, and Blood Vascular Medicine Institute (VMI) University of Pittsburgh

Convalescent Plasma Shows Great Promise

The FDA recently authorized the emergency use of convalescent plasma in the ongoing fight to defeat coronavirus. Early studies have indicated these antibody treatments could potentially reduce mortality rates by 35% among COVID-positive patients with active symptoms. This development means we are one step closer to defeating this pandemic, but we need the public’s help. If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, please consider donating your convalescent plasma to Vitalant. If you haven’t had coronavirus, you can make a financial donation that will go directly to supporting the safe collection, testing, and efficacy of convalescent plasma as a therapy for COVID-19.

Pledge your support.
Help the Blood Science Foundation advance cutting-edge research, provide a safe and ample blood supply, and meet the healthcare needs of patients in the regions we serve.

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