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Vermonters encouraged to regularly donate blood amid national shortage

A stage with many people laying on cots to donate blood. There are people in white coats taking blood and others helping to sort the donations below the stage.
Toby Talbot
Associated Press
Blood donors fill the stage at a record attempt for blood donations in Rutland in December 2011.

The American Red Cross is urging Vermonters to donate blood amid national shortages, and after a low number of donations were collected last month.

According to Jennifer Costa, the regional communications director for the Red Cross of Northern New England, the Red Cross had over 26,000 fewer donations than needed in May.

As summer approaches, blood donations decrease even more.

“People's lives get busy especially in the summertime. They have vacation, plans, kids are out of school,” said Costa. “And blood donation falls kind of off the top of the priority list.”

Costa emphasized that blood supply demand doesn’t stop with the season. “The reality is, the need for blood doesn't take a summer vacation,” she said.

Blood transfusions provide lifesaving treatment across all fields of medicine, and it's a nationwide effort to make sure every hospital has an adequate supply. The Red Cross coordinates and moves blood to areas in need throughout the country, especially to places experiencing natural disasters.

Costa gave the example of “devastating tornadoes” in the Midwest.

“Think about all of those blood drives that would typically be happening in those communities that get canceled because the community is dealing with devastation from that natural disaster,” she said. “They will then look to states like northern New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to provide their patients with the blood.”

Vermont hospitals are feeling the effects of the national blood shortage. Saisha Branchaud, the senior director of lab and pharmacy services at Rutland Regional Medical Center, says their main shortage is with O negative blood, the universal type.

“We have to allocate O negative blood, especially, more significantly and ensure we are saving it for patients who need it most,” said Branchaud.

Dr. Trey Dobson, the chief medical officer with Dartmouth Health at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, said he has not seen effects from the blood shortage in his hospital, but is keeping a watchful eye.

Dobson said that when blood starts running short, supplies dwindle fast. “They'll start by cutting [shipments] in half, they'll just reduce them sort of equally, you know, among all of the hospitals and locations receiving blood, so we anticipate that could be a problem,” he said.

In Vermont, 560 people every week need to donate blood to meet demand.

“But we can't go back to those 560 for another eight weeks. So every week, we need to find 560 different people who are willing to roll up their sleeves,” said Costa.

Vermonters are encouraged to donate blood every eight weeks, and Dobson says it can just become a part of regular life. “You make it a habit, you know, a habit that you can just maintain over a lifetime,” he said.

The Red Cross hosts over 1,000 blood drives a year in Vermont. Volunteer positions and hosting a blood drive are ways to stay involved besides donation.

You can find more information and details on local blood drives at

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Corrected: June 9, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT
A previous version of this story misspelled Saisha Branchaud's last name.
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