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July 03, 2021

Philly region experiencing 'emergency shortage' of type O blood, platelets, Red Cross says

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Blood donations Philadelphia Ahmad Ardity/Pixabay

The local chapter of the American Red Cross reported "emergency shortages" of type O blood and platelets amid a national blood shortage.

Blood donors are needed across the Philadelphia region to address a shortage in type O blood and platelets, according to the Southeastern Pennsylvania American Red Cross.

Typically, ARC aims to collect 600 units of blood every day to be distributed to 130 hospitals in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Delaware.

Alana Mauger, communications manager, told PhillyVoice they have less than half a day's supply of type O blood.

"That's really important because type O blood is the most commonly transfused blood type," Mauger said. "We strive to have a five day supply of all blood types. When type O falls to less than a day, it becomes a little bit scary."

Type O negative blood can be given to all patients and is referred to as the universal donor. 

When trauma patients come in and doctors don't have time to test their blood type, O negative is utilized.

Blood has a shelf life of just 42 days, so stockpiling is not an option. Platelets, which are used to treat cancer patients, last for just five days.

Mauger said there tends to be a slump in summer donations, but this year, it's much more severe.

She said the region faced a similar shortage last year at the start of the pandemic after blood drives were canceled, but they were able to bounce back quickly because the demand for blood went down.

"The level of this shortage seems worse, it seems more severe and we're not bouncing back," she said.

Nationally, blood donation is down and the need for blood donations is high. Officials cite an increased number of trauma patients, organ transplants and elective surgeries as the cause.

“The Red Cross is currently experiencing a severe blood shortage,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Our teams are working around the clock to meet the extraordinary blood needs of hospitals and patients – distributing about 75,000 more blood products than expected over the past three months to meet demand – but we can’t do it without donors. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.”

Some hospitals are being forced to delay elective surgeries until their supply increases.

Red Cross reported red cell demand from hospitals with trauma climbed 10% in 2021 — more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.

Mauger said the number one reason people don't donate blood is not because they are afraid of needles, but because they've never been asked, or never really thought about it.

To schedule an appointment to donate blood, go to or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). All blood types are needed, officials say.

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