Updated Nov 21, 2021 - Health

COVID rapid tests face holiday demand spike

Medical professional performs COVID-19 test using the Abbot BinaxNOW rapid test
Medical professional performs COVID-19 test using the Abbot BinaxNOW rapid test in December 2020 in Livingston, Montana. Photo: William Campbell/Getty Images

As many Americans prepare to travel and see loved ones ahead of Thanksgiving, developers and sellers of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests say they are prepared to meet an expected spike in demand for their products.

The big picture: The U.S. has been slower to embrace rapid at-home COVID-19 testing than Europe as regulatory hurdles helped make the tests scarce and overpriced. But the Biden administration has recently allocated billions of dollars to buy millions of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to increase supply.

Between the lines: Experts predict that the holiday season, as well as new vaccine mandates for federal contractors and certain employees, will lead to a spike in demand that stresses the supply chain, the Washington Post reported.

  • Several developers of rapid tests, as well as pharmacies that sell them, told Axios that they feel prepared to meet consumer demand.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation's Lindsey Dawson noted on Twitter that an experimental search for over-the-counter COVID-19 rapid tests produced dozens more tests in November than a similar search in September.

State of play: Abbott, which produces the BinaxNow rapid test, told Axios that it has scaled up its manufacturing operation to produce more than 50 million tests per month, and will be "widely available" through the holidays.

  • Quidel said that it has a "more than adequate" supply of rapid tests and is on track to be producing 50 million of its QuickVue rapid tests monthly by the end of the year.
  • Cue Health, which just debuted the consumer version of its rapid test last week, told Axios that they are "prepared to meet the demand we're seeing from new and existing customers."
  • An Ellume spokesperson told Axios that the company "stands ready" to meet an increased demand for its tests.

A Quidel spokesperson noted that the company anticipates a possible "continued rise in cases through Thanksgiving, especially in the Northeast and Midwest."

  • Vault Health, whose test is available via DoorDash, told Axios that it has seen demand increasing nationwide, with slightly higher rates, "in places like Texas, Florida, New Mexico."

Representatives from CVS and Walmart maintained that their inventories of over-the-counter rapid tests for COVID-19 are sufficient to meet the rising holiday demand.

  • A spokesperson for CVS said they have a stocked inventory and "are prepared to meet our customers’ needs as we enter the holiday season."
  • Walmart has increased its in-store and online inventory in recent weeks and is continuing to work with suppliers to meet demand, a spokesperson said.

The bottom line: A Biden administration official told Axios that the U.S. at-home rapid testing capacity has grown, "nearly three-fold since our September investments to accelerate production."

  • "Ahead of the holiday season, tests are much more readily available at retailers across the country and online thanks to these actions."
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