Ted S. Warren / AP
The White House is providing an additional $ 1 billion to purchase millions of rapid home tests for COVID-19 in response to the ongoing national shortage of these tests. The announcement was made by White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients at a briefing on Wednesday.
The money follows a $ 2 billion investment in September to provide rapid tests to community health centers, boards and schools.
These are over-the-counter swab tests that people can buy at the pharmacy and take home with them. They test for antigens or proteins on the surface of the virus and can give fairly reliable results within 15 minutes, especially on people who are symptomatic.
A shortage of test kits is reported across the country due to demand from parents buying the kits for children who have returned to the classroom and staff returning to work.
Zients said Wednesday’s action will now enable the country to quadruple the number of rapid tests available over the next few months: “We will have 200 million rapid home tests available per month by December.”
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved another rapid antigen test from ACON laboratories for the home – a move that will significantly increase the availability of home testing, according to the agency. It is the eighth test of its kind made available in the US and the cheapest, according to Zients.
He said the government anticipated the major purchases of tests and that the increase in production would lower the overall test price.
Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard epidemiologist who campaigned heavily on widespread rapid home testing, says he’s glad to see the Biden government invest in testing, “but it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough. America is so far “behind our peer nations.”
Citing programs in Germany and the UK where home tests are cheap and ubiquitous, Mina says he wants the US to get to the point where rapid home tests are less than $ 1 and are hidden in medicine cabinets everywhere “exactly like we have band-aids. ”
In the briefing on Wednesday, Zients emphasized that there are many free testing options available from community health centers and other testing sites – and that insurance covers these testing options. The administration has ensured that 20,000 more pharmacies are offering COVID-19 testing, in addition to the existing free test locations in over 10,000 locations across the country.
Meanwhile, the FDA announced Tuesday that Ellume recalled nearly 200,000 home test kits for having a higher than expected rate of false positive tests.