The White House just allocated $231M toward the first over-the-counter COVID-19 rapid test, but a local public health expert says it’s too expensive for many who would benefit most from an easy, over-the-counter solution.
Ellume, the Australia-based company behind the test, claims it is 95% accurate and will produces results in 15 minutes.
“We need all the tools we can get to overcome this virus and a new at-home test is a welcome addition, said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of San Diego State University’s Institute for Public Health. “It reduces the barriers to testing that we’ve seen again and again.”
The issue with Ellume’s test, according to McDaniels-Davidson, is its estimated $30 price tag.
“That’s pretty high for those who have been impacted the most by the virus — the low-wage workers and their families,” she said.
Ellume’s initial study was kickstarted by a grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The FDA gave Ellume emergency approval for its test in December.
The NIH also gave grant money to a team of researchers from SDSU and Quidel, a San Diego-based diagnostic healthcare product manufacturer, to develop a similar test and distribution program for specific communities.
“Underserved areas that have very high infectious rates, high rolling positivity rates and they don’t have a lot of testing options,” said McDaniels-Davidson.
McDaniels-Davidson is part of that team, and right now they’re offering the rapid tests to communities that qualify. The test is free, but availability is limited because the program is in its initial phase and requires a doctor’s sign-off as well as observation from a program volunteer or health care worker.
Quidel’s Sofia® SARS Antigen FIA rapid point-of-care antigen tests have shown promising results in lab testing and 15-minute return times, according to the school’s website.
McDaniels-Davidson hopes recent studies, newly awarded grants and emergency approvals will lead to more affordable, readily accessible at-home testing.
“Ideally we’d have simple, easy to use tests that someone could take every day, every other day,” she said.
Ellume spokesperson Suzanne Sterns told NBC 7 their tests have been shipped from Austrailia and are expected to be delivered to the U.S. government and military first.
The Biden Administration has also promised funding to build a factory to handle manufacturing and distribution for the following shipments available to the general public.
It’s unclear when that will occur.
“None of the first shipment of tests will be going to retailers or pharmacies for direct consumer purchase,” Stern said in a statement. “However, in the coming weeks we will be making further announcements around our retail rollout plans and partnerships to make it possible for consumers to buy the Ellume Home Test in stores.”