Spirit of Mutual Assistance necessary to Maintain Blood Donation System

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the number of people who donate blood has decreased and a shortage of blood for transfusions has become a concerning issue. The public as a whole should recognize the importance of blood donations and support the system with the spirit of mutual assistance.

According to the Japanese Red Cross Society, the number of blood donors in Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama stood at about 633,000 from April to December last year. With one donation accounting for 400 milliliters, there was a shortfall of more than 40,000 donations for the necessary amount to maintain the system. In Tokyo alone, the number of blood donors decreased by about 30,000 from the previous year.

One reason suggested for the decrease in blood donations has been the decline in group donations at companies and schools due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. With the promotion of telecommuting and the increase of online classes at universities, blood donation bus dispatches have continued to be canceled.

The shortfall in Tokyo and the three prefectures has been remedied with provisions from other regions, but it is unpredictable whether they can secure blood supplies in the future after the renewed declaration of a state of emergency. What must be avoided is a situation in which the supply of blood for transfusions is disrupted and lives that could have been saved are lost.

The government’s basic response policy on the novel coronavirus calls for continuing blood donations under the state of emergency to maintain the nation’s medical system. This is because blood cannot be made artificially or stored for a long time.

In principle, blood products made from donated blood must be secured domestically. Some of them are valid for use for only four days after the blood is collected. There are limits on the number of times and amount of blood a person can donate, so a wide range of cooperation is essential. The government and the Red Cross need to explain these points carefully.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has notified prefectural governments to extend support for such matters as securing blood donation sites. In each venue, infection prevention measures such as avoidance of crowded situations with the introduction of the prior reservation system and thorough disinfection and ventilation are taken.

As a measure to promote cooperation, it may be advisable to consider providing transportation expenses to people who visit a venue.

Blood donation is also being affected by the trend of a low birth rate and aging society.

About 85% of people who need to use blood products are in their 50s or older. The number of blood donors in fiscal 2018 was about 4.74 million, but there is an estimate that the further increase in the number of elderly people will require blood donations from about 5.07 million people in fiscal 2027.

Blood donations can be made from age 16. Group donations at high schools serve as motivation to make it a habit afterward. Once, more than 60% of high schools held group donations, but the figure remains at 20-30%. If the situation is unaddressed, the system will inevitably come to a standstill.

The central and local governments, as well as the Red Cross, should improve education to teach young people about the significance of donating blood. That certainly will serve as an opportunity for young people to learn the fact that one’s own goodwill supports society as well as the importance of life.