With Omicron, US testing capacity faces intense pressure

“They’re a hot item,” Mr. Ho said. “A guy came in and took them all. “

Part of the difference between the United States and Europe is their different healthcare systems, but also stems from a crucial decision the Biden administration made months ago: not to subsidize testing of the same. way it subsidizes vaccines. Some Western countries decided early on to shoulder much, if not all, of the costs of testing, securing demand and, some say, lowering prices through purchase agreements with major manufacturers.

The White House Biden only recently – in back-to-back announcements in September and October – pledged to spend a total of $ 3 billion to buy tests. More than half was spent on over-the-counter tests, senior administration officials said.

“It’s been a terrible situation since day one of the pandemic, and I would say it’s still sloppy,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. “We should have a wide range of rapid tests available for free,” as in Britain, Israel and some other countries, he added.

Earlier this month, Mr Biden announced that home tests would be reimbursed by insurers for the 150 million Americans who have private insurance, and that the administration would distribute 25 million more tests to health centers. community and rural clinics, which tend to treat low-income patients.

But the announcement sparked immediate complaints from public health experts, including Dr Topol, who objected to people going through the reimbursement claim process. Dr Topol said the idea that consumers would consistently incur such costs in the hope of reimbursement was “a no-starter.”

White House officials say they are working to further expand home test production, which in turn would create competition in the market and, presumably, lower costs. Demand is only expected to increase after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday approved a new approach to allow children exposed to the coronavirus to stay in school, testing at least twice in a week, at instead of forcing them to quarantine.

“We continue to do everything possible to continue to increase this supply,” Carole Johnson, testing coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Response Team, said on Friday.

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