COVID-19: Safe blood supply at risk ― Health Minister

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the supply of safe blood is at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ehanire, who was speaking on the commemoration of the World Blood Donor Day 2020, also revealed that the ministry is currently considering proposals for a major investment, from public and private sectors, to upgrade the capacity of the National Blood Transfusion Service.

The minister said the supply of safe blood was at risk, because regular blood donation drives have had to be postponed or deferred, and regulations for self-isolation, lockdown, and fear of infection have hindered the usual blood donors from accessing blood donation centers.

He said: “Transport and trade restrictions have also led to disruptions of global supply chains, putting countries at risk of shortages of critical supplies and equipment used for blood donation, processing, testing, and transfusion, to patients in need of blood.”

He pointed out that with a population of over 200 million, Nigeria’s estimated blood need was about 2 million units per year.

He added, however, that unfortunately, much less than that is currently collected, leaving unmet needs that lead to avoidable deaths, comorbidities, and ill-health.

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In line with its mandate, he stated that Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service strives to provide adequate supplies of safe blood, screened with modern fully-automated enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) technology.

He stated that in 2019, about 24,483 units of blood were collected and screened from volunteer blood donors through the 17 centers of NBTS network, while 19,676 units of blood were issued to various hospitals nationwide for transfusion purposes.

According to him, the National Blood Transfusion Service wishes to increase its scope of work, by scaling up its annual blood collection rate and sustaining ongoing efforts to expand the reach of its services.

“I am pleased to announce that the legislative process of the Bill for the establishment of a National Blood Service Commission is at an advanced stage and awaiting public hearing at the National Assembly.” He said.

On the investment to upgrade the capacity of the National Blood Transfusion Service; the minister said the ministry was currently considering proposals for a major investment, from public and private sectors.

This, according to him is to upgrade the capacity of the National Blood Transfusion Service to enable it to achieve its potential to produce blood components and plasma-derived medicinal products at a commercial scale, that meets international best standards and to enter the world market.

He also stated that this will ensures optimal utilization of each unit of whole blood collected.

The minister said the need for safe blood was universal because safe blood is a critical and indispensable healthcare requirement nowadays, both for treatment and urgent interventions.

“It plays an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child care, especially bleeding after delivery, in severe anemia, sickle cell disease, and in saving the lives of victims of major accidents and emergency situations after natural or industrial disasters. Blood transfusion is also key at most complex surgical operations.” The minister said.


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