WASHINGTON, (AP) — More home COVID-19 testing kits are on their way to stores. But how many will be available for Americans looking to screen themselves for the holiday season?
Thanks to almost a year of vaccines, improved testing supplies, and faster options, last year’s long lines for getting tested are gone. Some Americans are opting to have home testing done, as they fear that there may be infections in the future.
Janis Alpine from Seattle will be spending Thanksgiving with seven of her relatives, including her father who is 97 years old. Although everyone has been vaccinated, she will bring enough Abbott rapid tests to give to them.
Alpine, who is now a retired doctor, stated that “I’m just use to testing now.” “Even though the 97-year old has been vaccinated it is still not the best idea to get a little sick.”
After her September vacation to Las Vegas, she started testing herself every week. She usually buys five packs of test at once, as local pharmacies can sometimes run out of them.
Walgreens and CVS now claim they have plenty of supplies, and recently lifted the limit on how many can you buy at once after weeks of shortages. This shift is due to test makers increasing production thanks to more than $3 billion in new purchasing agreements and government assistance. The home tests usually cost more than $10 and take around 15 minutes.
Health experts warn that there is a risk of a winter surge, even with the improved picture. This is especially true if colder weather and holiday gatherings continue to cause new outbreaks throughout the country. They also note that the U.S. does not have the same cheap or widespread testing as other European countries who were early adopters.
“Unfortunately, it’s still going to be playing catch up until next year, or until demand subsides,” stated Neil Sehgal (a University of Maryland health policy specialist).
White House officials claim the U.S. has about 200 million home test per month by December. This will quadruple the number of tests performed in the summer. However, spot shortages remain, particularly in suburban areas with higher levels of testing.
Denise Weiss a retired musician from suburban Philadelphia said, “I couldn’t locate them for the longest time.”
She was able purchase six tests online last month, and she plans to share them her family members, especially her son and daughter, who are returning home by train and plane for Thanksgiving.
Abbott claims it can now produce 50 million BinaxNow test per month again after cutting production last summer as testing demand declined. There are only a few home test options nationwide, with Acon Laboratories launching new ones.
Target, Walmart, CVS and Walmart won’t have large quantities of the upcoming stock. Federal and state officials will distribute bulk purchases to schools, nursing homes, community health centers, and other government facilities.
Private universities and large employers also purchase millions of tests. The vaccine mandate for large employers by the Biden administration requires that workers who have not been vaccinated be tested weekly beginning in January.
Mara Aspinall from Arizona State University, a researcher in the health industry, stated that there is a “little bit of a challenge right at this time and the math may not be perfect.” “Having these tests on the shelves is great so people can feel empowered, but we also need to balance where they’re going.”
The Food and Drug Administration, under pressure from the Biden administration has been clearing home testing at a faster rate, authorizing four out of 13 tests available in the past two months. In an unusual decision, the White House announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will vet the most promising tests. Companies will need to wait for the test to be made and distributed.
In an attempt to stop the spread of pandemics, the United States made large initial investments in vaccines. Experts say that 60 million Americans aged 12 and older are still not vaccinated. This means that every part of the country is vulnerable to outbreaks like those in New Mexico and Michigan.
The persistence of the pandemic is a reminder to testing advocates that rapid, widespread COVID-19 screening is essential in order for infections to be caught before they spread. This has been a strategy they have advocated since the outbreak in the United States.
Britain and other countries offer billions of test for free, and they recommend that you test twice weekly. In a recent report, Kaiser Family Foundation researchers noted that the U.S. would need to administer 2.3 billion monthly tests for every person aged 12 and over. This is seven times more than the 300 million monthly tests the government hopes the country will have by February.
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Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education provides support to the Associated Press Health and Science Department. All content is owned by the Associated Press.