Increase in COVID testing leads to shortage of rapid tests


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – From corporations to health care providers to universities to concert and theatre venues – the requirement to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 is also testing supply.

The national shortage of rapid tests is growing.

“The faster we test, the more we test, the more we control transmission in our localities,” said Pia MacDonald senior director, Applied Public Health Research at RTI International in Research Triangle Park.

Rapid tests shouldn’t be confused with PCR tests, which require a lab and more time to be processed.

Rapid antigen tests are faster and cheaper.

MacDonald said the United States is behind a number of other countries in having the right amount of supply.

It’s an issue she said can be addressed with public and private partnerships just as COVID vaccines have been.

“Really getting to this very inexpensive test that can be done in everyone’s homes. That’s where we need to go, we’re not there yet,” she said.

Test manufacturers are scaling up production.

North Carolina is not immune to the shortage.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it is seeing supply chain concerns across the board.

But NCDHHS has not experienced any price increases but is continuing to monitor testing availability and capacity.

Abbott Laboratories announced it should have more at-home antigen tests widely available by the end of October.

With breakthrough cases and continued outbreaks at nursing homes and other congregant living facilities, there’s little time to wait.

“It’s absolutely critical in those settings where transmission can happen very very fast to have adequate testing so that you can quickly identify if there is transmission potential in that community and then put in place these other things that help decrease chance of transmission,” MacDonald said.

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