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Fewer young Quebecers are donating blood: Hema-Quebec

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The number of young people donating blood in Quebec has been declining for the past five years, a challenge for Héma-Québec, which is continuously working to fill its blood bank.

As the population ages, some regular donors are retiring from blood donation for various reasons. For example, if they start taking certain medications that exclude them as donors, or if they become ill.

That's why having a new generation of donors is so important, because the need is not diminishing. In Quebec, someone needs blood every 80 seconds, and to meet this demand, a minimum of 1,000 donations a day must be collected.

In 2018, young people aged 18 to 29 accounted for 31 per cent of registered donors. Five years later, there has been a 10 percentage point drop, meaning that 21 per cent of donors are under 30, according to Héma-Québec's most recent data.

Among new donors, i.e. any adult who decides to give blood for the first time, Héma-Québec observed a significant drop during the pandemic, but has since recovered.

In 2018, the organization that manages Quebec's blood drive reported 22.4 per cent of registered donors rolled up their sleeves for the first time, and this rate dropped to 14 per cent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, one in five registered donors is about to give blood for the first time.

"It's important to have 'new blood' every year to ensure the sustainability of the supply," explained Josée Larivée, spokesperson for Héma-Québec. Securing the organization's ability to meet hospital demand is also necessary.

"Our blood bank in Quebec is doing relatively well," said Larivée. "We're quite happy, we can be proud of the generosity of Quebecers, but when we look to the future, we say: 18 to 30 years, we have to get on board. You have to ask yourself why you don't give blood, and whether you could try to become a new donor."

Larivée pointed out that, at present, the weekly demand from hospitals "sometimes slightly exceeds our daily harvest -- so that the reserve is dwindling, a situation we're taking in hand by appealing for donations."

Summer is a precarious time, however, as appointments are harder to fill, partly because of the vacations.

Larivée said Héma-Québec's emphasis on vigilance has enabled the non-profit organization to never run out of blood in its 25-year existence.

Larivée was also encouraged by the 400 more Quebecers than usual who decided to donate during National Blood Donor Week, which ended on June 16.

Héma-Québec continues to hold blood drives across Quebec. It has not appealed to specific blood groups, but said the group O-negative is a universal donor essential for emergency relief.

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The Canadian Press health content is funded through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 8, 2024.

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