Healthcare

White House moves to quadruple rapid testing supply by December

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The White House said Wednesday that the country’s supply of at-home rapid COVID-19 tests is on track to quadruple by December amid a flurry of new announcements.

President Biden announced a $2 billion investment in rapid testing, which can deliver results in as little as 15 minutes, in September, which a White House official said was already on track to double capacity. The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a new rapid test from ACON Laboratories on Monday, as well as an additional $1 billion investment being announced Wednesday, will further increase capacity, the official said.

The moves are a burst of activity in an area where many experts have been calling for greater action for more than a year. Some experts have criticized the FDA, saying it has been too cautious and conservative in authorizing new rapid tests.

Joseph Allen, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tweeted Wednesday that rapid testing “will go down as THE epic failure of this pandemic.”

“My question: the utility of rapid tests was so obvious for over a year, why is this just getting attention now?” he added.

The Biden administration had been under pressure to take greater action, with several senators pressing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at a hearing last week on the much greater availability of cheap rapid tests in other countries.

“Why are tests in the United States so much more expensive than in countries like Germany or the U.K. or India?” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at the hearing.

With the new announcements, the White House official said production of rapid tests will rise from about 30 million per month to 200 million per month starting in December and that the price is expected to fall as well.

The White House will also announce Wednesday that it is doubling its commitment from 10,000 local pharmacies providing free testing to 20,000 pharmacies. That will bring the total number of free testing sites to 30,000, when non-pharmacy sites are also included. 

This story was updated at 10:29 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 tests Joe Biden Tim Kaine Xavier Becerra

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