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OneBlood's Susan Forbes Says the Blood Bank is Experiencing A Critical Need For All Blood Types

Photo: Nyugen Hiep
Photo: Nyugen Hiep

Last month, the Red Cross put out an urgent plea for blood donors, saying it had reached its lowest number of donations since the start of the pandemic. 

Now OneBlood says it also has a critical need for blood. 

WMFE spoke with OneBlood Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations Susan Forbes about why it’s safe to donate blood and the blood types they need most.

Read the full interview below.

Danielle: You know, last month the Red Cross said it saw its lowest donor turnout since the pandemic started. What's donor turnout been like here in Central Florida number-wise?

Susan: You know, we've, we have great donors, and we're very blessed at OneBlood to have such a great donor base. People are starting to move around again, the vaccine is available, more people are vaccinated, more people are traveling. And blood donation may not be top of mind with them right now. And we want to keep it at the forefront and let them know that it's still needed.

Danielle: You mentioned vaccines, but what safety protocols do you still have in place in your red buses for people who want to donate?

Susan: Oh, yes, we still have all of our social distancing practices are still underway at the Blood Center. We only allow a certain number of donors on the bus at any given time and in our centers, and we space out the donations. That's why we encourage appointments. Also, masks are still being worn by our team members and by our donors. You know, all of the equipment and the donor beds are wiped down between each donation everything the donor comes in contact with.

Danielle: That's great to hear. Should people avoid donating blood for any reason, like if they recently recovered from COVID? Or maybe if they've just been vaccinated?

Susan: As long as you meet the standard requirements to be a blood donor, getting the vaccine does not impact that to donate blood. So if you had COVID-19, and you got the vaccine, you can donate. If you never had COVID-19 and you got the vaccine, you can donate.

Danielle: You know, the FDA announced at the beginning of the pandemic that men who have sex with men have to wait three months instead of a year to donate blood. Is this still the case? And is this turning away potential donors?

Susan: OneBlood implemented the new policy, we moved to it immediately. And we are operating under the three-months deferral for the MSM policy. That did allow more donors into the donor pool because they lifted it from 12 months to three months.

Danielle: And Susan, I know that there are some donors who are especially needed to save a life right now. I think O and O negative donors. But what other blood types or types of donors are you looking for that you really need?

Susan: All blood types are needed because every blood type is important. You hear us put out as an extra push sometimes for O negative and O positive donors. O negative donors are the universal blood type, their red blood cells can be given to any patient regardless of the recipient's blood type. It's important not only to have a ready blood supply, but to have a diverse blood supply. And that means that we need the donor population to be of all ethnicities. And one of the examples of that is for sickle cell patients. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that primarily affects people of African ancestry, and they require regular blood transfusions. And in most cases, blood from other African Americans will be the perfect match for these sickle cell patients. So, a ready blood supply and a diverse blood supply. I can't stress it enough. Everyday patients in our hospitals are receiving blood transfusions, and it only can come from a blood donor. So we encourage you to please do so. About 40% of the population is eligible to donate. Unfortunately, less than 10% actually do.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.