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Vitalant urges blood donations amid national supply, staffing shortage

Vitalant has a blood donation center in San Luis Obispo
Rachel Showalter
Vitalant has a blood donation center in San Luis Obispo

Blood is in low supply across the country, forcing the Red Cross to limit distribution to hospitals and threatening available patient care.

The organization is calling this the worst blood shortage in more than a decade amid the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

“Normally we like to have at least four days worth of blood supply on hand and we have less than two days,” said Vitalant Donor Recruitment Representative Laura Kamada.

Kamada plans Vitalant blood drives across the Central Coast from Monterey to San Luis Obispo.

She said January is typically one of the most challenging blood donation months in general because of seasonal illness.

Right now, with mobile blood drive location limitations and a pandemic case surge, among other stressors, blood collection is even more difficult.

“We need to find places to park our bus but, on top of that, we are dealing with staffing shortages just like everyone else in the world unfortunately,” Kamada said.

She said fewer staff members means less blood collection.

Kamada said, pre-pandemic, she would be planning up to twelve blood drives in a single week. But right now, it’s a different story.

“I normally have about five to seven blood drives in a week,” Kamada said.

She said being unable to host more drives is having a heavy impact because they are consistently the best way to get more blood.

But Vitalant’s center in San Luis Obispo has been busy lately, and she said that’s always helpful.

David Bedell was at Vitalant donating blood and said he’s been doing it for years.

“I started donating blood when I was in college 30 years ago," Bedell said. "I’ve got an O Negative blood type that helps a lot of people.”

Bedell said giving blood is a quick process and he would encourage anyone to donate.

“There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of," Bedell said. "It’s a very simple and virtually painless process and it’s something that’s easy to do to help people out in the community.”

For donation eligibility information and to schedule an appointment, click here.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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