Washington (AP) — President Joe Biden puts millions more quickly to curb the latest deadly waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could overload hospitals and close classrooms across the country. I’m betting on a home inspection.
However, tests have already disappeared from pharmacy shelves in many parts of the United States, and manufacturers warn that it will take weeks to increase production after reducing production amid a plunge in summer demand. ..
The recent shortage is another painful memory that reminds us that the United States has not yet managed its COVID-19 testing weapons well. Not to mention deploying it quickly and in the systematic way you need it. Crush the outbreak At school, at work, in the community.
According to experts, the promising signs of last spring are: The role of test reduction: Decreasing the number of cases, increasing vaccination rates, and guidance from health authorities that vaccinated people may skip testing significantly.Recent stakeholders Reversed that advice A new surge in cases and deaths caused by delta variants.
“For all of us, the June time frame had a combination of optimism and arrogance, and we believed it was over,” said Arizona State, the leader in COVID-19 testing. Mara Aspinall, a university health industry researcher, said. Supplies.
Mesa County, Colorado is one of the municipalities that has stopped offering rapid testing as part of a free testing program for the general public.
Stephanie Bush, a county spokeswoman, said: She said the tests processed in the laboratory (which take time to produce results) are still plentiful.
In fact, some of the US test systems are much better than they were during the previous surge. Large commercial laboratories that handle most of the tests performed in hospitals and test sites still report sufficient capacity. Lab Corp, one of the largest lab chains, said last week that it could provide 150,000 test results daily and double that number.
Still, rapid testing has the obvious advantage that it can be run anywhere and takes 20 minutes, but most school test programs rely on lab-processed tests, 1-2. Results will be returned in days.
In general, the United States was far more cautious about adopting rapid home inspection technology than in a more widespread country like the United Kingdom. The Food and Drug Administration has approved only about half a dozen such trials, compared to more than 400 laboratory trials. Many experts, including FDA regulators, consider lab technology to be the “gold standard” for accuracy because it can detect even the slightest level of nasal virus.
But in his speech this month, a drastic announcement New vaccine obligationsBiden emphasized rapid testing, saying that the government would buy 280 million of them as the government called on all schools to set up regular test programs. Mr Biden said the federal government will use the Defense Production Act to ensure that manufacturers have access to the raw materials they need to test.
If those plans sound familiar, it’s because they were part of Biden. Unique strategy To address COVID-19 released in January.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the latest action was “built on previous initiatives” as delta variant-led surges boost test demand.
HHS has released very little $ 2 billion in details-plans to buy a quick test. For now, retail chains like CVS and Walgreens have set limits on the number of home tests customers can buy.
Abbott Laboratories, the country’s largest high-speed test maker, is currently producing “tens of millions” of Binax NOW tests a month and says it is working to increase capacity in the coming weeks.
New York Times Recently reported That summer, Abbott closed one of its factories, fired employees and destroyed some test components.
Abbott said these decisions were made after increased vaccination and a sharp drop in demand for testing. According to Abbott, the destroyed supplies had a limited shelf life and could not be used for sale in the United States or for donations abroad.
“It’s now very clear that testing is a necessary companion to the vaccine, and Abbott is on the rise again,” a spokeswoman for the company said.
The Biden administration’s purchase plans should help stabilize supply. However, testing experts said the government may have taken steps a few months ago.
“What happened here can’t let the market decide on test supplies,” said Scott Becker of the American Institute of Public Health. “These tests are essential for public health purposes and therefore need to be supplied at all times.”
Becker’s group and others have seen the demand for testing increase over the weeks. The lab is operating well below the levels seen last winter, but there are uncertainties about how Biden’s push for stronger testing at school and at work will affect the lab. ..
Test policies vary widely from school to state. In some districts, all students are regularly screened, including Los Angeles, Baltimore and San Antonio. But even more districts haven’t tested at all.
Recent survey 100 big districts It turns out that less than 15% of students need a test. That’s despite the $ 10 billion federal funding available last spring to set up a test program.
Many districts have the advantage of frequent testing Logistic headache Program setup and student quarantine Some states even tried to return test funding to the federal government.
Biden’s plan has no penalties for schools that did not test. This is a factor that can limit uptake.
To make quick testing more affordable, major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger have agreed to sell at a 35% discount over the next three months. But the cheapest test, Abbott’s Binax NOW, sells in two packs for about $ 15, and is out of reach for some families who are considering testing frequently.
Other tests cost more than $ 35 even after discounting.
This is very different from countries like the UK and Germany that offer quick tests for free or in the low single digits.
But with the federal government investing billions of dollars in rapid testing, test proponents are hoping that more and cheaper options will eventually hit the market.
“When you can’t win the war, you need to change your strategy. I think this is a great first step to doing that,” says Aspinall.
Follow Matthew Perrone on Twitter. @ AP-FDAwriter
The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.
Biden is betting on a quick COVID test, but it can be hard to find | Work
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