Widespread awareness about blood donation is required: Dr Ripal Shah

The history of voluntary blood donation in India dates back to 1942 during the second world war when blood donors were required to help the wounded soldiers. The first blood bank was established in KolkataWest Bengal in March 1942.

Today, several developments take place in every field including medical as well. In spite of multiple advancement in the medical field, we, the humans are incapable of producing artificial blood. Science has made significant progress with the development of artificial heart, lung, joints, limbs, etc., but still for blood and blood components, we are dependent on fellow humans to donate blood. Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) is an essential part of modern healthcare system without which medical care is impossible.

Dr Ripal Shah, Medical Director, Prathama Blood Centre, Ahmedabad in a discussion with THIP Media throws light on significance and challenges of blood donation and rare blood group among general population in India.

THIP: The number of blood donation camps seems to have increased around us in recent days. But is it enough? Do we have enough blood stocks uniformly across the country?

Dr Shah: Blood donation camps have increased in recent time during Covid era but not as many voluntary donors as required to meet demand are turned up. There are two kinds of people in society. Some are self-motivated and regularly volunteering to donate blood while others need continuous motivation or find excuses for not to donate.

According to WHO, blood donation by 1% of the population is generally taken as the minimum need to meet a nation’s basic requirements for blood; while the requirements are higher in countries with more advanced health care systems (WHO 2009b). However, there is no evidentiary support or accessible statistical model to substantiate this hypothesis. As per the above norm, India’s demand for blood is around 13.8 million blood units (1% of 1.38 billion population). There are huge variations in the estimated demand, supply and utilization of blood and blood products as well.

THIP: What are the misinformation or myths that plague the blood collection efforts?

Dr Shah: There are some very common myths regarding blood donation that prevent people from coming forward and donating blood regularly.

  • Donating blood makes the immune system weak
  • Blood donors become obese
  • Blood donation isn’t for women
  • A blood donor is prone to infections
  • so why should I
  • I do not have enough blood to spare
  • I’m afraid of getting AIDS through blood donation

THIP: There are some rare blood groups like Rh Null, Bombay blood group, para-Bombay blood group, O negative. Does it require separate efforts to drive blood donation around these groups?

Dr Shah: Prevalence of rare group is really very less and that is why they are rare groups. So, number of donors are less in the society but at the same time number of patients are also less. So, there is no such special drive for rare groups takes place as routine practice. But YES, it is done in special scenario when rare group patient needs multiple blood units at a time. So basically, blood donation camp for rare blood group is done keeping the special scenario in consideration.

There is a countrywide variation in blood donation numbers in various regions and months. The variation is observed during the exam months in the colleges, regional festivals, weather, etc. Also, a decline in voluntary blood donation is observed during these periods of the year. So, whenever this type of demand is generated, we conduct and special camps for that.  

The problem arises for thalassemia patients with rare group as they are in constant need of blood. In Prathama Blood Centre, we have a group of dedicated donors for each patients including negative group patients. In case of their requirement, a donor from our donor groups come forward and donate blood for thalassemia patient.

At the same time, blood centres also have their own registered rare group donors. In case of requirements, blood centres approach these donors and activate blood donation.

THIP: What is the percentage of people present in India with such rare blood groups? How much blood do we need annually for such people?
(Mention the following – demand-supply in India for rare blood groups, how such requirements are managed in emergency conditions, is there a database, etc.)

Dr Shah: O is the most common blood group (37.12%) in the country closely followed by B at 32.26%, followed by A at 22.88% while AB is the least prevalent group at 7.74%. 94.61% of the donor population is Rh positive and the rest are Rh negative. Regional variations are observed in the distribution.

  • Rh null, Bombay and para-Bombay are really very few.
  • Frequency of Rh null is 1 in 6 million individuals. It is the rarest blood (also known as golden blood) with around 50 individuals in India.
  • Frequency of Bombay and para-Bombay blood group is 1 in 10000 individuals, more common in Bombay than another region of India.
  • AB negative blood group is also a rare group with frequency of 1 in 2000 individuals.
Blood GroupFrequency (%) 
B+33.641 in 3
O+31.251 in 3
A+20.471 in 5
AB+7.941 in 14
O-2.491 in 50
B-2.131 in 50
A-1.571 in 65
AB-0.511 in 200

The frequency of blood group in Prathama Blood Centre in 145,000 blood donors is depicted in the image below:

THIP: The Indian Government’s effort to centralise blood banks through e-raktkosh is a noble effort. But can such efforts help people with rare blood groups?

Dr Shah: e-raktkosh is a noble initiative of Government. This site supports the general public in case of their need by providing details about nearby blood centre/blood storage centre, availability of blood (as per blood group, blood components etc), bio metric Donor Management System, Generation of rare blood group donor registries and the generation of regular repeat donors etc.

Widespread awareness about the support and use of this site for the general population is missing.

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