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COVID-19: Concerns mount over looming blood scarcity in hospitals

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THE Federal Government has expressed worries over the likely reduction in the quantity of blood available for hospital treatment nationwide due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  However, Lagos State Government allayed fears that COVID-19 could be transmitted through blood transfusion, saying there’s no study to back up the claim.

In a speech at the commemoration of World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) 2020, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said shortage of supply from blood banks might lead to avoidable deaths, morbidities and ill-health.

According to him, getting enough supply of safe blood is at high risk during this outbreak of pandemic. He further described safe blood as a critical and indispensable healthcare requirement both for treatment and urgent interventions.

With a population of over 200 million, Ehanire added that Nigeria’s estimated blood need is about two million units per year. The minister expressed worries that the required estimated two million units of blood per year are currently not being met.

“During this COVID-19 pandemic, the supply of safe blood is at risk because regular blood donation drives have had to be postponed or deferred and regulations for self-isolation, lockdown and fear of infection have hindered the usual blood donors from accessing blood donation centres.

“Transport and trade restrictions have also led to disruptions of global supply chains, putting countries at risk of shortages of critical supplies and equipment used for blood donation, processing, testing and transfusion, to patients in need of blood,” he stated.

Dr. Ehanire said the Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) had been striving to provide adequate supply of safe blood, screened with modern fully-automated enzyme linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) technology.

“In 2019, about 24,483 units of blood were collected and screened from volunteer blood donors through the 17 centres of NBTS network, while 19,676 units of blood were issued to various hospitals nationwide for transfusion purposes,” he said.

Ehanire explained that the ministry is currently considering proposals for a major investment, from public and private sectors to upgrade the capacity of the National Blood Transfusion Service to enable it to produce blood components and plasma-derived medicinal products at a commercial scale that meets international best standards and to enter the world market.

Also, at the commemoration of this year’s World Blood Donor Day in Lagos State, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, faulted claims that COVID-19 could be transmitted through blood transfusion.

Abayomi, in a speech delivered yesterday through a Zoom Live Feed organised by Lagos State Blood Transfusion Service (LSBTS) to commemorate the occasion, said the COVID-19 pandemic should not deter residents of the state from donating blood to save the lives of others.

He said: “Scientifically, there are no confirmed reports of COVID-19 being transmitted by blood transfusion anywhere in the world. With the practice of health protocols at blood collection sites, including hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, among others, it is safe to donate blood.”

Speaking on the theme, ‘Safe Blood, Saves Lives – Give Blood and Make the World A Healthier Place,’ the commissioner said encouraging and promoting voluntary blood donation in a safe and conducive environment were the goals of the state government.

He said: “This year’s theme came at a time we are having COVID-19 pandemic, various phases of lockdown and travel restrictions. This resulted in some challenges to our blood donation drive. The need for blood transfusions and medications based on blood components has however continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This shouldn’t only be about blood collection from donors or its transfusion, but the collection of convalescent plasma from those that have recovered from COVID-19 infections in preparation for an interventional study in the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 infection.”

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