Blood supply relatively stable

The supply situation was stable, for the most part, in 2021; donating blood was possible throughout the year. Digital services were further expanded, for instance through the launch of a «vaccine-check» tool.

The blood product needs of the population in Switzerland could be met at all times in 2021, the second year of the pandemic. The established protection plan (masks, distancing and other measures) ensured that donors were able to donate blood in a safe environment.

Blood transfusion services face challenges during the pandemic

2021 was another year in the shadow of the pandemic, whose consequences changed the way we live together in our society. The eleven regional blood transfusion services were called upon to adapt flexibly to changing rules and regulations.

Due to the ban on gatherings, decisions taken at the national level resulted in uncertainty at the local level about whether blood drives could take place – on the part of local authorities and that of the groups that help run these events. Some drives had to be cancelled, usually because the safety requirements could not be fully met at the premises available. Moreover, blood drives at companies and universities did not take place due to a lack of sufficient potential donors, resulting from the obligation to allow employees to work from home and remote learning for students. Legal provisions banning gatherings always made an exception for blood donation in order to safeguard the blood supply.

The health and safety measures prescribed by the Federal Office of Public Health were implemented throughout the entire year. In addition, several of the regional blood transfusion services were able to stagger the arrival of blood donors, thanks to the digital appointment booking system, and thus ensure that distancing rules could be observed.

The vaccination campaign began in March. In August, Swiss Transfusion SRC introduced an online «vaccine-check» tool aimed at clearing up donors’ uncertainty about whether and how soon a person could donate blood after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. With the tool, blood donors were able to find out online how long they needed to wait after receiving a vaccination before donating blood. This spared donors unnecessary trips and eased the workload at the regional transfusion services.

Donating blood was possible at all times since blood donation centres and blood drives were exempt from the «3G rule», and thus no one was required to show a certificate proving that they had been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative.

Despite the many challenges, it was possible to secure the blood supply in Switzerland throughout the entire year.

Stable demand for blood

The amount of blood products needed by hospitals remained steady throughout the year despite the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the normalisation (no lockdown like that in 2020), the demand for blood products rose slightly in comparison to 2020: surgeries could be performed in hospitals without interruption throughout the year, and there were more accidents, because people spent more time out in nature.

Demand for red cell concentrates (erythrocyte concentrates), rose by 1.9 per cent. Thus, the demand for this key blood product, after declining for a number of years, has stabilised again in the past three years. Demand for thrombocyte concentrates (platelets) was up by 8.9 per cent, demand for plasma by 4.1 per cent.

Loyal blood donors

The Swiss public demonstrated its solidarity with patients once again during the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Long-term donors remained true to the cause of blood donation, and many new donors stepped up as well.

Once again, some mobile blood drives had to be cancelled, in some cases because safety rules could not be met at the premises in question. Nonetheless, mobile blood drives accounted for nearly as high a percentage of the national blood supply in 2021 (46%), as they had in the years before the coronavirus pandemic (2020: 45%). A total of 1,853 blood drives (2020: 1,694) took place in 905 communities (2020: 826). At 66.7, the average number of donations collected per drive was below the 2020 average (70.3 donations/drive).


Expiration rate down

Swiss Transfusion SRC strives to ensure the national supply of blood products while aligning procurement activities as closely as possible with demand. There were 268,202 units of blood donated in 2021 (2020: 266,161). This increase of 0.8 per cent compared to 2020 was less than the 1.9 per cent increase in the demand for red cell concentrates. The expiration rate, 0.90 per cent, was therefore significantly below the rate for 2020 (1.82%). The regional blood transfusion services were able to respond flexibly to changes in the demand for blood in 2020 by adjusting the number of blood donations – and by doing so, kept the expiration rate low – thanks in part to the appointment booking system.

World Blood Donor Day at Bundesplatz

On World Blood Donor Day, 10 June, Swiss politicians were invited to donate blood on Bundesplatz, the square in front of the building housing the Federal Assembly, Switzerlands parliament. Numerous assembly members answered the call from Swiss Transfusion SRC – including President of the Confederation Guy Parmelin and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. The action drew attention to the frequent decline in the number of blood donations in the summer months, which can pose challenges for the blood supply. There are two factors involved in this: the nice weather makes people feel less inclined to donate blood, and many people are off on holiday or are temporarily ineligible to donate, having recently returned from a country in which infectious diseases are found. The event was a success: it was widely covered in the media and 27 blood donations were collected on Bundesplatz.