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One more call has been added to those to stay home, maintain social distance, and wash your hands often: blood donations must continue despite the epidemic caused by Covid-19.

In early April, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned that Latin American countries were at risk of facing a blood shortage for transfusions during the pandemic. “We are concerned that blood bank reserves are running low, as this puts the lives of many people in need of transfusions at risk,” said the agency’s Director, Carissa F. Etienne, on April 10.

Stopping donations was not an option. “We must find ways to ensure that blood donations continue without interruption and are safe for both the donor and recipient,” added Etienne.

Authorities and organizations from various countries reinforced the call for voluntary donations and launched efforts to offer security to donors. In the United States, for example, the Armed Services Blood Program has implemented additional measures at donation centers such as temperature controls and reduced teams, according to its website.

“We understand that this is a stressful time and want to assure you that we are taking your health and wellness very seriously,” reads the Stanford Blood Center’s official website. “All of our practices are designed with this in mind, and additional policies around sanitation and increased distance between donors (to the degree possible) have been implemented as an extra precaution.”

In China, where some collection centers have issued alerts due to blood shortages, they have chosen to send text messages to citizens to invite them to donate and have also implemented appointment schemes and even proposed to go to citizens’ homes to collect blood.

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What measures have been taken in Mexico?

The Mexican government recognized in early April that one of the challenges it faces is the possibility that fewer donors will go to hospitals for fear of catching the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“The flow of effective blood donors in blood banks is decreasing. This is not a situation that only this country is experiencing. It’s in all the countries of the world,” said Jorge Trejo Gómora, Director General of the National Center for Blood Transfusion (Centro Nacional de Transfusión Sanguínea, CNTS). “There could be a shortage of blood and blood components in the National Blood System.”

For this reason, the Ministry of Health has set up mobile units so that citizens can continue donating. The location of the units can be found via the National Blood Transfusion Center. In addition, an appointment system has also been implemented throughout the country.

Historically, Mexico hasn’t had a high percentage of donations. Although it has advanced in recent years and is above the average in the region, it is still below other nations such as Cuba and Argentina.

In 2016, Mexico had a percentage of 18.9 donations per 1,000 inhabitants and managed to increase this in one year.

According to the latest available data from the Pan American Health Organization, 19.2 donations were made for every 1,000 inhabitants in 2017, while in Argentina there were 26.6; in Uruguay, 25.5 and in Cuba, the leader of the region, 36.1.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fear that it will hurt or that they will be rejected for having tattoos or for their sexual orientation are some of the myths that Latin American nations have to put an end to in order to get more citizens to donate their blood.

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Why is blood donation so important?

Because it is the safest and quality is guaranteed, according to the campaign that PAHO launched this year on World Blood Donor Day, which is celebrated every June 14.

The international organization assures us that it is blood is essential for treatments and urgent interventions. It gives hope and quality of life to patients with life-threatening diseases and allows complex medical and surgical procedures to be carried out.

It is also important for treating the wounded during emergencies of all kinds and plays an essential role in maternal and newborn care.

What does it take to be a blood donor in Mexico?

-You need to be between 18 and 65 years old.

-Have good health

-Weigh at least 50kg.

-You can have a light breakfast before you come to an assessment.

-Not have had any tattoos, piercings or acupuncture in the last 12 months.

-Not have taken antibiotics in the last seven days or pain relievers in the last five days.

-To not be pregnant or breastfeeding

-To not have had any major surgery in the six months prior to donation.

-To not have Hepatitis B or C, HIV, Chagas disease or syphilis.

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