NEW DELHI :
The number of eligible blood donors in India is set to decline with the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) considering an interim order to exclude “at-risk donors”, or people who may have been in the risk of contracting covid-19.
The interim guidelines by NBTC, which operates under the ministry of health and family welfare, were rolled out as part of safety measures in view of the rapid spread of the virus. It added that the move may, however, lead to a severe shortage of blood in the country.
The government said that based on the history of exposure of blood donors to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, blood donors will be selected. When India’s annual requirement of blood is 14 million units, it can only collect 12 million units in normal times. The exclusion will further add to the shortage of blood donation services in the country.
The recommendations will be followed for blood transfusion services and are aimed at maintaining safe and adequate blood supply during covid-19 pandemic.
While confirmed cases of covid-19 have been barred from donating blood for 28 days till they completely recover from the disease, and get radiological and virological clearance, the government has also deferred people with other covid-19 related criteria.
According to the NBTC, people with travel history to overseas destinations, especially a country with covid-19 transmission, will not be allowed to donate blood for 28 days.
Blood donors with contact history, or individuals who could possibly be exposed to a covid-19-positive person, or a suspected case, including those under quarantine, will also be barred from donating blood for 28 days. Other covid-19-related criteria may also be notified by the health ministry from time to time to ensure that the recipients are safe.
The government also said that the ministry was monitoring the situation actively, and these recommendations may be considered interim, till revised guidelines are issued with reference to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and emerging evidence on covid-19.
Public health experts have cautioned that the blood shortage percentage will rise sharply, as the guidelines will remain there till this pandemic is completely brought under control. According to WHO, blood donors must represent at least 1% of a country’s population to meet a nation’s most basic need for blood. According to official data of 2016-17, India had a shortage of 1.9 million units, or 15%, vis-à-vis the WHO recommendations.
During the covid-19 crisis, the urgent need of blood and blood components remains a challenge, especially for thalassemics, severe anaemics, cancer patients, road traffic accident victims and for women suffering from post-partum haemorrhage.
“There is already a shortage of blood across the country which may shortly reach a panic situation. To ensure adequate supply, blood banks, government and NGOs should reach out to eligible healthy blood donors and enrol new first-time donors,” said Dr J.S. Arora, general secretary, National Thalassemia Welfare Society (NTWS).