Slowed growth

The registry continued to grow in 2022, though not as rapidly as in past years, one reason being a dearth of enquiries about patient events and appeals this year. Another is the increase in the number of registered donors removed from the registry when they turn 60, which is done due to patient safety concerns. Moreover, our marketing efforts are now targeted more strongly on the young, male target group with the aim of promoting qualitative growth.

The Swiss registry listed 177,849 persons at the end of 2022; a 5.9 per cent increase over 2021 (171,709 persons). The number of persons who registered as blood stem cell donors was 8,138. This is below the 2021 figure (12,188 new registrations) but is still a stable level of growth. In 2022, 2,005 persons were removed from the registry (2021: 2,645). In addition to the regular removal of donors from the registry when they turn 60, this figure includes individuals who had themselves removed from the registry because a change in their health or private situation had made them unable to donate blood stem cells. Through the intensified dialogue aimed at strengthening donor commitment, registered donors are regularly reminded about their pledge to donate blood stem cells and have occasion to review it, quickly and easily, and decide whether they wish to remain in the registry. This results in better quality and, thus, in the readiness of registered donors to respond positively if and when a concrete request for a donation comes in.

The percentage of registrations initiated online fell somewhat in 2022 compared to 2021. This is because it became possible to hold in-person registration events again in the second half of 2022; this was never an option in pandemic-fraught 2021. Of the total new registrations, 87.7 per cent were carried out using the online questionnaire (2021: 96.8 per cent).

Register: younger male donors wanted

Swiss Transfusion SRC is striving to attain a balanced ratio of men to women in the registry of blood stem cell donors and an increase of the number of  younger people registering as donors. The percentage of “under 30s” is one of the relevant indicators for registries, because transplant material from young people is, for medical reasons, more promising with respect to good patient outcomes.

Registry: In 2022, 35.7 per cent of the donors in the register were men (2021: 35.5 per cent). The average age of registered donors was 37.5 (2021: 37.2), and 26.8 per cent of registered donors were under the age of 30.

New registrations: At 40.8 per cent, the proportion of men remained on a par with the previous year’s figure (40.5 per cent). A total of 65.7 per cent of those added to the registry in 2022 were under the age of 30 (2021: 62.5 per cent).

Male donors provided 69 per cent of all Swiss blood stem cell donations (2021: 65 per cent); 77.5 per cent of those who provided donations were under the age of 36 (2021:78.5 per cent).

Women continue to be welcome and desired as donors as well. However, pregnancies and childbirth can result in the formation of specific antibodies in women’s blood that, while completely harmless for the women themselves, can trigger adverse reactions in the immunosuppressed patients.

Registration is open to people from the time they turn 17 until their 40th birthday. Once people reach the age of 60, they are no longer eligible for stem cell donation and are removed from the registry.





Return of in-person tissue typing events

It became possible to hold in-person registration drives with on-site “swabbing” in greater numbers again in 2022: events were held in three schools for army recruits (Wangen, Linden, Burgdorf) and, at the end of the year, in the universities/universities of applied sciences and arts in Lausanne, Bern, Luzern, Zurich and Muttenz. Almost 250 students registered at these events. The swabbing to collect saliva samples made the events a “happening” once again.

Volunteers from the rescue service and the police staffed one registration drive, held by the City of Basel’s emergency rescue service, helping 80 people to register themselves.

Social media: new strategy and channels

The new social media strategy was implemented in 2022: With regard to blood donation, the focus lies on awareness raising and encouraging donor loyalty through our Facebook and Instagram channels. We reach out with our own articles and shared content from the community to people who are already familiar with our organisation and follow us on social media.

The focus is different in the area of blood stem cell donation. Here we concentrate on young people who have very little prior exposure to blood stem cell donation or to our organisation. The primary objective here is to recruit new blood stem cell donors. A new addition is the placement of our messages on YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat through paid short-video campaigns. TikTok and Snapchat are used most by the target group of young people aged 18 to 25. In parallel with this, we started a first attempt at working with influencers. The latter portray the idea of registering for blood stem cell donation to their followers as something that is both easy and worthwhile.

Informational e-mails accompanying the registration process

At regular intervals over the first year or so after registering online (the “journey”), people automatically receive informational email messages. There are six emails in total. The first four are aimed at increasing the return rate for the test kits. The subsequent emails serve primarily to strengthen donor commitment. The idea is that frequent exposure to the topic of blood stem cell donation enables newly registered donors to acquire basic knowledge about it and establish a strong connection with it.

Once their “journey” is complete, registered donors receive a newsletter at regular intervals (2022: 4 times a year). Each newsletter focuses on one topic and includes a brief reference to the sponsorship programme. The newsletters are received by an average of 150,000 people. At over 50 per cent, the open rate is considerably above the sector average.

The purpose of these mailings is to encourage people to send in the test kits after they register online, thus ensuring that the registration can be finalised. They are also meant to result in increased donor availability at the time of a concrete donation request, as by repeatedly calling the topic to people’s minds, they help keep people aware of the fact that they themselves are registered. In 2022, donor availability after a concrete donation request was 53.2 per cent (2021: 52.9 per cent). Overall, 29.1 per cent of those who gave a negative response when first contacted with a request cited reasons of a medical nature for doing so; 17.7 per cent cited personal reasons (see chart).


Registry information update and availability check

We wrote to 20,000 registered blood stem cell donors once again in 2022, asking them to verify their data electronically. For the first time, we also inquired about medical and temporal availability in the event of a concrete donation request. Almost two thirds of the persons we contacted this way verified their data and completed the availability check. The chief reason for a temporary ineligibility due to donor safety concerns is a planned, current or recent pregnancy (5.4 per cent of all responses). The Donor Center called more than 430 potential blood stem cell donors to clarify responses to the questions on health that indicated a possible ineligibility to donate. Moving forward, the registry information update, including the availability check, will be continued every year, with the aim of increasing the quality of the Swiss registry of blood stem cell donors by keeping the contact details and health data in it up-to-date and of increasing availability upon a concrete request for donation.

Giving and receiving the gift of life

For people who have been diagnosed with a blood disease like leukemia, a blood stem cell transplant is often their only chance of survival – a life-changing experience. Likewise, people who donate blood stem cells will never forget the day they got the call with the message: “You came up as a match for a patient.”

We took the 8th annual World Marrow Donor Day, 17 September, as an opportunity to produce a video in which we present the donation of blood stem cells from both perspectives by having a transplant recipient and a donor tell their stories.

In Switzerland, donors and recipients are not allowed to meet. A rule of anonymity applies.

Donor follow-up

On the basis of a mandate from the Federal Office of Public Health, Swiss Translation SRC is responsible for running a ten-year follow-up programme for all related and unrelated donors in Switzerland. This ensures that the donors’ health is protected. It also enables Swiss Transfusion SRC to gather detailed information that may be of benefit to future donors.

The questionnaire-based follow-up was carried out in 2022 once again, in person or by email. Work began on a digital application that will simplify the follow-up process, but it will not be implemented in the short term.

In past years, 80 to 90 per cent of blood stem cell donors opted to participate in the voluntary follow-up programme. In 2022, 76.5 per cent (2021 82 per cent) did so; see chart (figures as per 25 Jan. 2023). This figure shows a slightly downward trend both for related and for unrelated donors.


Return rate, per cent

Number of questionnaires mailed (related and unrelated)

Number of questionnaires received (related and unrelated)