A woman receiving a blood transfusion
Source: Getty Images

Why Is There a Blood Shortage? Red Cross Offers Incentives for Donors

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Jan. 12 2022, Published 10:48 a.m. ET

Give blood and you could win a trip to the Super Bowl. Faced with the worst blood shortage in a decade, the American Red Cross has teamed up with the NFL to provide an incentive for people to donate blood. Why is there a blood shortage?

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Blood donations have declined since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The COVID-19 pandemic is mainly to blame for the blood shortage in the U.S. According to the Red Cross, the number of blood donors has declined by 10 percent since the pandemic started.

blood donor shortage
Source: Getty Images
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Donor turnout hit all-time lows when the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus started to spread in August, followed by the omicron variant, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S. Other issues like blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations haven’t helped either.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” said Dr. Pampee Young, the chief medical officer of the Red Cross. “We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people.”

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People of all blood types are needed, but those with O positive and O negative are especially critical.

The Red Cross supplies 40 percent of blood for the nation’s hospitals. Because of the shortage, some hospitals are only receiving a quarter of the blood they need to treat accident victims, cancer patients, people needing blood transfusions, and people with blood disorders like sickle cell anemia.

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Doctors are forced to decide who gets blood.

The shortage is forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood and who has to wait. Illinois resident Kristen Mill is one of those who has had to wait. Mill requires weekly blood transfusions because her body doesn’t produce enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen in her blood.

Blood transfusions are a matter of life or death for Mill, but she has had to wait two or three days for treatment in recent weeks.

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“It has become quite common that I would have to wait two or three days for blood. Then my condition would get worse, and I’d need to be hospitalized while waiting for blood. It usually took two days, sometimes three days, which is a long time when you are waiting for something that could save your life,” said Mill.

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January is National Blood Donor Month.

The blood shortage has continued during National Blood Donor Month, which is recognized in January. To encourage people to donate blood, platelets, or plasma, the Red Cross is partnering with the NFL to offer a little incentive. People who donate in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

The package includes two tickets to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, entry to the official NFL Tailgate, tickets to Super Bowl Experience, round-trip airfare to Los Angeles, three-night hotel accommodations (February 11–14, 2022), and a $500 gift card for expenses. Donors will also be entered for a chance to win a home theater packages and a $500 gift card.

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