CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — The Armed Services Blood Bank Center is in urgent need of both O-positive and O-negative blood.

As of Tuesday, the center had only 57 units of blood on hand — 22 of which were O-positive and 11 O-negative, according to C. Tracy Parmer, blood donor recruiter.

Deployments to the Middle East and the relief missions in tsunami-stricken South Asia have taken their toll on the center. Parmer said donation restrictions for those who deployed to those areas could range from one to three years.

Another roadblock Parmer has run into is the recent startup of smallpox vaccinations on Okinawa. The vaccinations are “being given in compliance with the deputy secretary of defense requirement to expand force health protection to members assigned to Okinawa,” according to a U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa spokeswoman.

Parmer said anyone who receives the smallpox vaccination is deferred from giving for three weeks. She said the center has had to cancel entire blood drives because the sponsoring unit was receiving the vaccination.

“That’s killing me … you put [deployments] together and add in smallpox, and it’s really hurting our donations,” she said. “That’s why family members and dependents who haven’t traveled to deferral regions need to give. If they could come in and donate, that would help a lot.”

While servicemembers have been lending a hand to tsunami victims, so, too, has the center. Parmer said they’ve sent shipments of blood the past three weeks to the USNS Mercy, which is in the region. She said the blood bank staff even came in last weekend at 11 p.m. and sent an emergency supply of more than 70 units out to the ship.

With the center’s normal commitment to distributing blood throughout the Pacific, recent emergency supplies and the number of those eligible to donate dwindling, Parmer is going the extra mile to increase numbers.

“I’m picking five Marines up today [from Camp Foster] and bringing them over to donate,” Parmer said.

“Even if only one person comes in that’s a lot, because that one person can save up to three people,” she said. The Camp Lester blood bank center is open for walk-in donations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on making a donation, or scheduled blood drives, go to:, and click on “info for patients and community,” then “blood donor program.” To schedule a blood drive for your command, call the center at 643-7710 or 7737.

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