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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Supply shortages are still a problem for coronavirus testing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Health systems are being forced to limit who gets tested, sometimes limiting tests to the most essential patients — which is far from an ideal testing strategy.

Details: The problem is largely a shortage of reagents, or chemicals used to process the tests, medical officials told WSJ.

  • The shortages are caused by regional increases in demand when cases rise or because of increased testing at places like schools and nursing homes.
  • Two-thirds of labs are struggling to get enough reagents and test kits, according to a survey done last month by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

What we're watching: The problem probably isn't going to get any better, because flu tests rely on a lot of the same supplies and personnel, per WSJ.

The big picture: We haven't yet solved our testing problem. Contact tracing isn't going well. People with the virus often don't isolate, either because they don't know they have it, they don't want to isolate or they have no reasonable way of doing so.

  • This is at the core of why the U.S. has failed to deal with the virus as effectively as other wealthy countries.

Go deeper

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dec 31, 2020 - Health

U.S. set to end 2020 with just over 3 million vaccine doses administered

A healthcare worker hands Patrick Range, Sr., 88, a vaccination card after giving him the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Americans received just over 3 million initial doses of coronavirus vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech in the 19 days following first shipments, according to a Bloomberg tally of government websites and CDC data.

Why it matters: It's far below Operation Warp Speed's goal of administering 20 million doses by the end of the year, raising concerns about how long it may be until enough people are vaccinated in the U.S. for life to return to normal.

1 hour ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.