LifeSouth Community Blood Center, a non-profit blood bank, has seen supply shortages and a lack of donors since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.LifeSouth is not alone.
Blood donation centers nationwide are still experiencing shortages caused by the pandemic. The center is in critical need of type O-, the universally accepted blood type, and O+, which can be accepted by everyone with a positive blood type.
Laura Bialeck, the community development coordinator of LifeSouth Community Center in Gainesville, said the shortage persists with fewer donations and donors. As surgeries canceled during the pandemic are now being rescheduled, more blood is needed, she said.
High schools make up 15 to 20% of blood collections per year, Bialeck said.
When schools and businesses closed at the beginning of the pandemic in March, blood drives were barred from going to them.
“High school students are not as willing to come out and donate if we're not at their school — the camaraderie that they get donating with their friends and getting to miss class when they go out and donate,” she said.
Bialeck said LifeSouth has recently been permitted to have blood drives at schools by the Alachua County school district and at UF.
Julia Dawson, a 20-year-old UF psychology sophomore, said she sometimes passes out giving blood but continues to donate because she wants to help people.
“I'm more cautious because of the way that my body reacts,” she said. “But it's not really something that has completely turned me away from it.”
Dawson said her experiences donating blood have been positive, especially with incentives like T-shirts or gift cards.
“They're really good at making sure that you're comfortable and understand everything that's going to happen,” she said.
Time conflicts and inconvenience can also limit someone’s ability to give blood, Alex Walker, a 20-year-old UF economics sophomore, said. She also believes misinformation may contribute to the hesitancy to donate.
“Maybe people aren't as well informed,” she said. “Maybe they think they can't donate blood, and they just don't know how it's going to go.”
From June 11 to 14, LifeSouth will give a $20 e-gift card to donors to celebrate World Blood Donor Day, which is June 14.
“I would ask people to face your fear and give it a try,” Bialeck said. “They might find out that, ‘Hey, it wasn't so bad, and now I know I've saved some lives.’”
Contact Phong Huynh at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @phongphont.