blood supply

COVID Pandemic Triggers Critical Blood Shortage in Bay Area, Country

There's usually a four-day supply on hand, but recently it's less than a one-day supply

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The COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the omicron surge, has triggered a critical blood shortage across the Bay Area and the country. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo Thursday became the latest person calling on everyone who can, to donate immediately. 

There's usually a four-day supply on hand, but recently it's less than a one-day supply.

“Pandemic of course has forced the shutdown of a lot of the kinds of events that you would typically have at schools, at workplaces. And fares and so forth where people would come and give blood,” said Liccardo.

The dire national shortage is also prompting new calls for the FDA to lift it's donation restrictions on gay and bi-sexual men.

Since the 1980s, men who have sex with men have been barred from giving blood out of concern about the risks of AIDS and HIV.

In 2020, the FDA relaxed those rules a bit. 

HIV negative, gay and bisexual men are now allowed to donate, but only if they haven't had sex in three months.  

But there is a new study that could change those rules again.          

“A study called the 'advance study,'” said Kevin Adler of San Francisco’s Viralant Blood Centers. “This study is focused on evaluating an alternative to the blood donor's deferral policy.”

Under an FDA grant, researchers are actively recruiting gay and bi-sexual men to participate in this study.

Vitalant Blood Centers in San Francisco and Oakland are participating. 

“This is a great way for gay and bi-sexual men to be involved in the process. You know, if you can't donate, we encourage you to see if you're eligible to participate in the advance study,” said Adler.

In 2020, the FDA also relaxed restrictions on other groups of people that had been barred or restricted from donating, including Americans who may have lived in Europe when mad cow disease was an issue, or who recently got a tattoo.

For now, the message is clear -- if you can give blood, please give now.

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