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Dr. Mallika Marshall Explains Importance Of Black Blood Donors For Patients With Sickle Cell Disease

BOSTON (CBS) -- There is an unprecedented shortage of blood products across the U.S., largely due to the pandemic, and local doctors are making a special plea for donations from one particular group of minorities.

Black Americans make up about 13% of the general population but less than 3% of the blood donor pool.

Yet patients with sickle cell disease, who are almost exclusively Black, often need blood transfusions to survive.

Dr. Sharl Azar, Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease Treatment Center at Mass General Hospital, explains the importance of getting blood donations from Black Americans.

"When I think about my patients living with sickle cell disease, they are going to be needing blood transfusions repeatedly over the course of their lifetime. It is important for us to be able to match that blood to them as closely as possible," said Dr. Azar. "Having people who look like they do to be able to match that blood as tightly as we possibly can, allows them to be able to prevent the complications that come from having blood that is less matched to them."

Dr. Azar also said why he thinks Black Americans are less likely to give blood.

"I think that there are a lot of trust barriers to the Black community and the healthcare system as a whole," he said. "The healthcare system has not to step up to broach those barriers and to allow the black community to feel comfortable when they come in and donate their blood."

So as a Black woman myself, I donated blood at Mass General on Thursday. It was so easy and only took about 45 minutes, including the check-in process. They had an array of tasty snacks to nibble on and a TV to watch.

And remember, your single pint of blood could help up to three patients in need of blood products.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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