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Vitalant holds blood drives across the Central Coast amid "critical" shortage

vitalant blood drive
Gabriela Fernandez
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Vitalant's SLO headquarters has a a lab to donate blood anytime.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there has been a "critical blood shortage," including on the Central Coast. To try to address this, the nonprofit Vitalant is hosting a series of blood drives in the area this month.

The San Luis Obispo division of Vitalant provides donated blood to local hospitals. Laura Kamada is their Senior Account Manager, and she plans blood drives across the Central Coast with her team.

“We're doing this to make sure we have blood for those hospitals, because blood expires after a certain amount of time. Not just that, donors are not coming out to donate blood,” Kamada said.

She said donated blood expires after 42 hours, and since the COVID-19 outbreak, they haven’t been able to host as many blood drives — and people are just not donating as much as they were before.

Vitalant blood drive
Rachel Showalter
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Vitalant's SLO headquarters hosted a blood drive earlier this year.

“You cannot donate blood if you get COVID. We're just seeing a huge decline. Pre-pandemic we used to do a lot of blood drives and we aren't doing as many still,” Kamada said.

Since their office is based in San Luis Obispo, Kamada says,
they know not everyone in the county can drive there to help. So, they are bringing their buses across the region to cities like Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, and Solvang.

In the past, Vitalant has attempted to host virtual blood drives, where people schedule appointments online to come into their SLO office rather than a blood drive. But she said the turnout is not as high as the in-person drives.

Even the in-person blood drives sometimes struggle to get people to show up, however.

“I can personally say for a lot of my blood drives, I've seen about like seven to 11 no-shows. We know for a fact that those physical blood drives do a lot better,” Kamada said.

Kamada said one pint of blood can save up to three lives. So, if there are no-shows and people aren't able to donate because of the pandemic, she said it affects the blood supply.

“There is no substitution for blood. So patients that need this blood are the reason why we're saying, 'Hey, we are in a critical pledge shortage, we need you to come out and donate blood,'” she said.

Vitalant partners with local businesses, organizations, and schools across the county to be able to fulfill the need for donated blood, but anyone can show up at their office in SLO to donate.

The non-profit said all blood types and platelets are needed. If you are eligible, there are drives across the county this month and the schedule is at vitalant.org.

Upcoming Vitalant blood drives on the Central Coast:

August 8, Solvang, Old Mission Santa Ines, 1760 Mission Drive, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

August 9, Lompoc, Anderson Recreation Center, 125 West Walnut, 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM

August 10, San Luis Obispo, Promega Biosciences, 277 Granada Drive, 1:00 PM – 4:45 PM

August 10, San Luis Obispo, Tapestry Solutions, 2975 McMillan Avenue, 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM

August 15, Lompoc, Foursquare Church, 125 N. C Street, 1:30 PM – 6:00 PM

August 16, San Luis Obispo, French Hospital Medical Center, 1911 Johnson Ave., 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

August 17, Atascadero, Wild Fields Brewhouse, 6907 El Camino Real, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

August 19, Lompoc, Lompoc Valley Medical Center, 1515 East Ocean Ave., 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

August 19, Santa Maria, Marian Regional Medical Center, 1400 East Church Street, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

August 20, San Luis Obispo, King David’s Masonic Lodge, 859 Marsh Street, 10:00 AM – 1:30 PM

August 21, Lompoc, Valley of Flowers ½ Century Club, 341 N. North Street, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

August 23, Atascadero, Century 21, 6755 El Camino Real, 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM

August 25, Lompoc, Veteran’s Memorial Building, 100 Locust Avenue, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

August 28, Santa Maria, First Unitarian Church, 1550 S. College, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

August 31, San Luis Obispo, KSBY, 1772 Calle Joaquin, 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She studied political science at Sac State, interned at CapRadio and then worked as an associate podcast producer at CapRadio working on the TahoeLand podcast.
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