Covid-19 outbreak interrupts blood donations in Vietnam

By Chi Le   February 23, 2021 | 06:00 am PT
With the latest Covid-19 outbreak still ongoing, regular blood donors are staying away, cutting supply to those who are in dire need of transfusions.

Ly Lo May, 26, learned that she has blood cancer over a month ago. The leukemia causes her to hemorrhage. There are bruises all over her body and she faces the risk of brain hemorrhage.

A Dao ethnic woman from the northern mountainous province of Sa Pa, May is under treatment at the National Institute of Haematology & Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) in Hanoi since January 29. She needs blood transfusion every day. Sometimes for one process, she needs as many as four blood units, or 1,000 millimeters in total, per day.

But recently, the treatment has been interrupted several times due to a supply shortage in the blood bank.

The blood left at the store of the National Institute of Hematology & Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) in Hanoi, Feburary 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Cong Thang

The blood left in store at the National Institute of Haematology & Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) in Hanoi, Feburary 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Cong Thang.

The reason for the shortage is obvious. Fears related to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak are preventing people from going to the hospitals to donate blood as they used to do earlier.

May’s family is worried about what would happen if her treatment cannot continue, despite the hospital announcing recently that she belongs to the group of patients who would be given priority for blood transfusions, given her critical condition.

But that group is limited. For now, those suffering chronic anemia will not get their blood transfusions, nor will patients deemed not to be in emergency situations.

Bach Quoc Khanh, head of the haematology institute, said the Covid-19 outbreak has prevented donors from contributing because they are afraid of accidentally getting into contact with infectees, requiring them to be quarantined or isolated at home, and, in the worst case scenario, get infected with the disease.

For three days, February 9-11, 30 blood donation schedules at the institute were canceled, which means it lost more than 5,000 blood units.

On February 18, the institute, which provides blood to various hospitals across the country, had just 4,800 units left in store while the average demand is 1,200-1,500 units each day.

Khanh said many hospitals, medical centers and organizations have announced the delay of blood donation campaigns because they want to focus on Covid-19 prevention first.

Nguyen Lan Hieu, director of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital, reported similar shortages in blood banks.

"Many of our patients are on the waiting list for the right blood type and have not received the proper treatment yet."

The blood shortage is affecting the treatment of patients at 177 health facilities in 28 cities and provinces in northern Vietnam, he said.

The NIHBT has suggested that blood donors could use a mobile app designed particularly for blood donations to register, complete health declaration procedures and arrange a schedule to ensure a donation in safe conditions.

Vietnam has been dealing with a new wave of community transmissions since January 28.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the latest outbreak has topped 800 in 13 cities and provinces, including HCMC and Hanoi.

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