Donating blood in Vietnam as a foreigner and why you should too

November 8, 2023 | 03:33 pm PT
Darren Barnard Teacher
In the last 12 months 1.4 million units of blood have been collected in Vietnam, that equates to nearly 1.5% of the Vietnamese people donating at blood drives and clinics across the country.

According to WHO recommendations, each country needs at least 2% of its population to donate blood in order to secure the blood supply for emergency work and patient treatment. Therefore, Vietnam is currently below the requirement of at least 2 million blood units per year, with a population of almost 100 million people.

During the pandemic there was also a significant shortage of donors, especially since many were fearful of going to a hospital and it would have been an additional deterrent for those who are nervous about donating. More recently, Covid-19 has been classified as a common infectious disease in Vietnam. Therefore, perhaps much of the anxiety surrounding donating has decreased.

Why foreign donors are needed in Vietnam?

In both the U.S. and the U.K. approximately 15% of citizens have the blood type RhD negative, whilst in some other neighboring countries this percentage is even higher. Whereas, the percentage of Vietnamese people with this rare blood type is extremely low, only around 0.04-0.07% of individuals have it. Therefore, a donation from a foreigner in Vietnam could be considered more meaningful in replenishing the amount of rare blood in the country.

Earlier this year the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion co-hosted the 9th Annual Blood Drive in aid of World Donor Day (June 14) which aims to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and healthy donors. "Give Blood and Keep the World Beating" was the slogan of the campaign that highlighted the importance of donating.

Blood donors directly help patients of all ages, including those who have been affected by accidents, burn victims, organ transplant patients, heart surgery and individuals battling cancer.

During my visit to the Hoan Kiem District Medical Center, the nurse informed me that they only receive around 25-30 donations every day. This is further complicated by the fact that not everyone can donate due to multiple reasons.

Despite feeling nervous prior to my visit, particularly since it was my first time giving blood, I was relieved and delighted by the warm and welcome service from the nurses and volunteers working at the medical center. I received a pre-donation form written in English and clear instructions in spoken English to calm any nerves and to help me prepare for my donation. If you have considered donating before, but are worried about any particular factors, I can ensure you that you will be in a capable hands.

Foreigners donate blood at the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion in Hanoi, February 2023. Photo by the institute

Foreigners donate blood at the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion in Hanoi, February 2020. Photo by the institute

Furthermore, during my donation I began to feel lightheaded and rather dizzy, this was quickly resolved by the staff, who swiftly helped raise my legs in the reclining chair to increase blood flow to my head and then provided me with water and some sugar to prevent any further lightheadedness.

In addition to the benefits patients receive from your donation, there are also numerous benefits each donor receives when giving blood in Vietnam, they include: Basic tests on your blood and blood pressure to ensure your wellbeing; an optional gift or further information about your blood type and when it has been used for a patient via SMS or email; VND50,000 (US$2) in cash; free refreshments before, during and after your donation, which include water, iced tea, biscuits, cakes and candy.

Can you donate?

In order to donate the following conditions have to be met:

Age: 18 to 60 years old

Weight: At least 42 kg for women & at least 45 kg for men

Haemoglobin level and platelet level must meet requirements during quick blood test before donating

Blood pressure below 180 systolic and below 100 diastolic at time of donation

Have identification card or passport on your possession

Where can you donate in Hanoi?

The following locations, 8:00 - 12:00 and 13:30 - 17:00 from Monday to Saturday:

Hoan Kiem District Medical Center: 26 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hoan Kiem

Nhan Chinh Ward Medical Station: 132 Quan Nhan, Thanh Xuan

Clinic No. 2 - Medical Center Dong Da District: No. 10, Alley 122, Duong Lang, Dong Da

National Institute of Hematology - Blood Transfusion: at 2nd floor, Blood Reception Department (Pham Van Bach Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi), from 8:00 to 20:00 all days (including Saturday, Sunday and public holidays).

*Darren Barnard is a teacher working in Hanoi.

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