As Canadians immerse themselves in the whirlwind of holiday festivities, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) faces a pressing challenge. Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, the critical demand for blood and plasma donations persists.

In the upcoming weeks, CBS said it needs 30,000 blood donors to make sure hospitals are stocked with blood, which goes to a range of critical needs, including support for cancer patients, premature babies and trauma victims.

“It saves lives,” Ron Vezina, vice-president of public affairs for Canadian Blood Services, told Global News.

“The need increases because people get busy with things that take them away from the normal routines, whether they’re hosting or doing holiday shopping. Meanwhile, hospitals keep running, and the need for blood doesn’t go away.”

Click to play video: '‘I’ve never seen our blood levels this low’: Canadian Blood Services calls for more donations'

‘I’ve never seen our blood levels this low’: Canadian Blood Services calls for more donations

Statutory holidays in December and early January impact the collection of blood donations, he said. And because of this, there is an urgent need for donations during the holidays.

Story continues below advertisement

CBS runs a national inventory to make sure when hospitals need blood the organization can quickly replenish it. Given the perishable nature of blood, it cannot be stored in a warehouse for extended periods throughout the year. Instead, Vezina said there is a constant need for donors to come in regularly and contribute to maintaining a fresh and ongoing supply.

Platelets, which are part of every blood donation, have a shelf life of only seven days, according to CBS. They are a vital component of blood and are commonly used in treatments for cancer patients.

Get the latest Health IQ news.

Sent to your email, every week.

But if blood and plasma aren’t stocked, that is when he worries hospitals will have to start deciding who can and cannot receive blood on a priority basis.

“We don’t want to get into that position. We want to make sure that they don’t have to make those tough choices,” Vezina said. “We’re not at a crisis point, we are trying to avoid that, but that does not mean we are in an ideal state.”

Blood donor centres open during the holidays

Many blood collection centres will be open on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, as well as during other regular collection hours, to meet the donor demand, Vezina said.

Story continues below advertisement

“Most of our locations are open even on some of the statutory holidays, so don’t assume that we’re closed,” he said. “Like our hospitals that run around the clock throughout the year, our blood centres have to be open most of the time as well.”

The best way to check and see what centre is open, he said, is to download the GiveBlood app, or head to the website and see what time slots are available.

“Canadians are very generous, but I think they also get distracted,” he said. “What we’re asking people to do is really consider giving a part of yourself over the holidays. It’s a season of giving. There’s no better gift.”

Change in criteria bolstering donations

Although donations may be drying up during the holiday season, Vezina noted a significant uptick following a recent Health Canada eligibility change.

Story continues below advertisement

Last month, Health Canada agreed to lift a ban on blood donations for people who lived or travelled in the United Kingdom, Ireland or France for long periods in the 1980s and 1990s. It was officially lifted across the country on Dec. 4.

Click to play video: 'Blood donation ban tied to mad cow disease lifted across Canada'

Blood donation ban tied to mad cow disease lifted across Canada

The ban was adopted more than two decades ago by blood agencies in many countries to prevent the transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease.”

But health officials said after 30 years of research and surveillance, people who previously weren’t eligible to donate under the travel criteria can do so safely.

“Twenty per cent of the new donors since Dec. 4 have been as a result of that change in criteria,” he said. “So it’s a great boost. We’re very grateful for all the people that are coming in and wanting to re-engage. And I think a lot of them are finding joy in being able to save a life in Canada as well.”

Story continues below advertisement

— with files from The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *