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Surging Demand for Over-the-counter (OTC) at-home SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Tests
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, surging demand for over-the-counter (OTC) at-home SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests, as well as point-of-care rapid tests—driven by requirements for unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly testing and parents’ need to test schoolchildren—is squeezing the US supply and driving up costs. In a move aimed at scaling up availability of at-home rapid tests, the US White House this week announced it will purchase an additional US$1 billion worth of the tests in order to quadruple the number of tests available in the US by December. The move follows a previous US$2 billion investment announced in September meant to supply rapid tests to community health centers, food banks, and schools. Expanding access to testing is part of US President Joe Biden’s 6-pronged COVID-19 action plan announced September 9. Lack of access to testing in the US could be contributing to the virus’s spread, as government-subsidized rapid testing is widely available in several other countries—including Britain, France, and Germany—making it easier for people to determine whether they are infected after a known exposure or when experiencing symptoms.
Additionally, the US Department of Defense announced it has awarded 6 contracts worth US$2.78 billion to purchase 150 million at-home and 400 million point-of-care COVID-19 test kits to supply health centers, nursing homes, colleges and universities, and other outlets. On October 4, the US FDA authorized the use of ACON Laboratories’ Flowflex COVID-19 Home Test, a rapid antigen test that shows results within 15 minutes and retails for less than US$10. The test—the eighth rapid test available in the US—will help increase the availability of at-home tests, a White House official said. Also this week, Australian company Ellume recalled nearly 200,000 of its test kits over concerns they have a higher-than-expected false-positive rate. Overall, about 427,000 test kits were affected by the problem, including some provided to the Department of Defense, but about half of those were already used.