Trump administration to purchase 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests

Trump administration to purchase 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests
© Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to purchase nearly all of the new rapid COVID-19 tests that Abbott Labs will manufacture this year, a White House official confirmed.

The administration will purchase 150 million tests as part of the $750 million deal, which President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE is expected to announce later Thursday during his speech to accept the GOP presidential nomination during the Republican National Convention.

The plan was first reported by Politico.

ADVERTISEMENT

Abbott's BinaxNOW is a potentially breakthrough new tool that can deliver results in 15 minutes. It is entirely self-contained, meaning there is no extra lab equipment needed to run the test, and large volumes of tests can be performed simultaneously. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Abbott an emergency use authorization for the tests Wednesday.

The company plans to begin shipping them by the end of the month, with "tens of millions" of tests in September, and 50 million tests a month by the beginning of October.

“This is a major development that will help our country to remain open, get Americans back to work, and kids back to school,” White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said in a statement. “The Trump Administration is proud to partner with Abbott labs to make this purchase possible to help the American people.”

The move would represent a significant expansion of the current U.S. testing capabilities, which have often not been able to keep up with demand.

The administration did not say where the tests will be sent once they are purchased.

ADVERTISEMENT

The test uses a nasal swab and a small reactive card. Under the FDA's emergency authorization, it can be administered at patient care facilities by a range of health care workers, including physicians, school nurses and pharmacists with minimal training. 

Antigen tests are not as reliable as molecular tests but they are much easier and cheaper to scale up to the capacity needed for effective virus surveillance and control. 

However, the Abbott test is only authorized for use in patients suspected to have an active COVID-19 infection, meaning it is not authorized to test asymptomatic or presymptomatic people. 

The BinaxNOW is 97.1 percent sensitive, meaning it correctly diagnoses those with coronavirus 97 percent of the time, and 98.5 percent specific, meaning an infection is correctly ruled out that often.