Blood bag shortage complicates collection efforts

Blood bag shortages nationwide, particularly for the only universal blood type, O-negative, has been causing organizations to issue an urgent appeal to donors, multiple sources report.

The Arkansas Blood Institute reported losing hundreds of units of Type O-negative blood a month because of recent blood bag shortages. Specialized bags are necessary to safely draw "double dose units" of blood from larger-sized donors and, without the option, ABI is struggling to collect enough of the universal blood type. 

The shortages are particularly concerning after the Red Cross issued a warning Nov. 8 that a severe flu season could threaten the nation's blood supply over the winter. Two weeks after the warning, multiple states, including Hawaii, Georgia and Oklahoma, were facing critical shortages. 

The loss, according to the Oklahoma Blood Institute, could quickly affect area hospitals' transfusions to trauma victims, premature babies and sickle cell disease patients unless more O-negative donors step in. 

Coffee Memorial Blood Center, an organization that supplies blood and blood products to hospitals and medical facilities in Texas and Oklahoma, has been experiencing similar issues keeping up with rising demand in the area as a result of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A shortage of specialized bags has similarly caused Coffee Memorial to be unable to collect as much O-negative blood from donors as it previously had. In addition, the decreased number of donors during the holiday season has increased the urgency of needing more donors to contribute. 

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