Blood donations plunge while COVID-19 cases surge: UAE doctors in donation plea

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Doctors at hospitals and clinics across the UAE are pleading for more people to come forward and give blood. Health specialists are reporting falling numbers of blood donations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many patients require blood donations, heath experts across the UAE say fewer people are willing to leave their homes and donate blood over coronavirus fears.


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Doctors are reminding would-be donors that their help can also help treat patients with coronavirus symptoms.

Dr Marwa El Ghandour, a specialist in clinical pathology at Bareen International Hospital, said blood donation is needed for convalescent plasma which is a method in which blood from people who have recovered from an illness is used to help others recover from the same illness, she said.

This can be used to help people recovering from COVID-19 infections.

In August last year, the FDA authorized the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

“Convalescent plasma isn’t a new therapy,” said El Ghandour. “In fact, this form of medicine dates to the late 1800s, long before antibiotics became prominent to treat infections.

“With convalescent plasma therapy, doctors take plasma from previously infected patients with COVID-19 antibodies and give them to current COVID-19 patients to attack the virus.”

El Ghandour said blood donation is also needed to treat patients who need regular or urgent blood transfusions - such as those suffering with leukemia, cancer or severe trauma.

A nurse holds a bag of plasma from a recovered coronavirus disease (COVID-19) donor next to an apheresis machine at the Belgian Red Cross blood collection center in Brussels, Belgium October 27, 2020. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)
A nurse holds a bag of plasma from a recovered coronavirus disease (COVID-19) donor next to an apheresis machine at the Belgian Red Cross blood collection center in Brussels, Belgium October 27, 2020. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

“As the coronavirus pandemic rolls on through 2020, healthcare workers continue to treat the same diseases they faced before COVID-19,” she said.

“Only now, with more people wary of venturing outside their homes, the blood supply crucial to so many medical treatments has taken a hit.

“But the need for blood remains the same.”

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El Ghandour said one person’s donation could save three lives in the hospital.

“Three teaspoons of blood could save a baby’s life,” she said.

Dr Mirhan Mohamed Hasan Alkady, a specialist pathologist at Burjeel Specialty Hospital Sharjah, said according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), every two seconds, someone needs a blood transfusion.

“In health care settings in our community and across the country, donated blood is a potentially life-saving and essential part of caring for patients and during the coronavirus pandemic, donated blood is needed more than ever. "

“If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19, you may be part of the cure for coronavirus.

“Your blood plasma— may contain antibodies that can attack coronavirus, which might help someone else who is critically ill fighting the disease.

Dr Alkady said, at participating blood donation centers, the FDA and WHO are exploring an investigational treatment using plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19.

“This convalescent plasma is being used to help people with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.

“In the UAE blood donation centers usually encourage all people eligible for transfusion to go and donate blood in governmental hospitals and centers

Despite fears, donating blood is completely safe, said the doctor.

“Respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there haven’t been any reported cases of coronavirus from a blood transfusion.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infection, some blood donation centers may ask that you don’t donate blood at this time if you’ve recently been exposed to coronavirus or are experiencing any possible symptoms.”

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