My1sttoday: White House awards $230M for rapid COVID-19 tests. Andy Slavitt, White House COVID-19 adviser, said the administration will provide more than $230 million to an Australian company called Ellume, which received authorization for the test in December.
The company was part of the National Institutes of Health’s RADx initiative to spur test development, and said it received $30 million from the program.
“Thanks to this contract, they’ll be able to scale their production to manufacture more than 19 million test kits per month by the end of this year,” Slavitt told reporters.
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The move is a significant step forward in expanding the reach of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests, something experts have been advocating for months.
The test is 95 percent effective and gives results in about 15 minutes. It can be used to test symptomatic people as well as those without symptoms, in order to help with surveillance.
The test uses a nasal swab that isn’t as deep as the traditional nasopharyngeal test. People swab their nose and then use a “Bluetooth connected analyzer” that sends the results to their smartphone.
Still, it will take time to increase manufacturing. The company will be able to ship 100,000 kits a month to the U.S. from February to July.
The new contract will guarantee the U.S. 8.5 million kits, but not until the end of the year.
Cost could also be a barrier. The test kits cost $30 each, and it’s not clear if they will be covered by insurance. The appeal of a rapid, at-home test is that it can be used multiple times a week to help people to return to work and school.
Slavitt said he expects the cost to decrease as more units are produced. He said affordability should be something federal, state and local officials factor into their thinking and planning about access to COVID-19 tests.