SAN FRANCISCO -- A new, less expensive, at-home COVID test is on the way. On Monday, the FDA authorized the Flowflex test - made at ACON laboratories in Southern California. Then on Wednesday, The White House announced a $1 billion investment to manufacture at-home rapid tests.
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"We are on track to quadruple the supply of rapid at home tests available to Americans by December to more than 200 million a month," said White House COVID-19 coordinator, Jeffrey Zients.
At the beginning of August, Abbott's Binax and Quidel's QuickVue tests were in abundant supply at drugstores.
Now, it's hit or miss. Ever since school started, the tests have been in high demand. Some stores are well-stocked, while others have empty shelves.
"I want it more accessible," said Rose Mueller.
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Mueller's grandson, who's in Kindergarten, has already taken two at-home COVID tests this school year, which their family prefers over the PCR tests.
"I think it's easier because he feels more comfortable in the home," Mueller said.
The Abbott and Quidel tests come in two-packs, and cost $12 per test. The White House says ACON's test will be less than $10 per test.
Sammy Haney says he needs the at-home tests right now because he's taking care of his elderly father.
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"It was very difficult to locate them and when I did, they're pretty expensive. So I think the idea of having affordable at-home testing kits is absolutely a good move on the part of the government and the companies that are making them."
"I would hope that the supply chains for these tests really open up," said Joseph Derisi, Co-president of the CZ Biohub.
Derisi helps run free COVID testing using at-home tests in San Francisco's Mission District.
Kate Larsen: "At $10 a pop, for a family of five that's $50 - that's food for a day. Should these tests be even less expensive?"
Joseph Derisi: "Yes, I would hope that the price really comes down. One because there's competition in the marketplace and two because the government should subsidize them to some level, so that they can be accessed by more people, especially people who have a tough time making rent."
With the school year underway and holidays approaching, the at-home COVID tests have the potential to bring people together safely.
"I had one of my colleagues swab everyone in the driveway before they came into the house for a very small get together, even though everyone is vaccinated, just to add that layer of security given the idea of breakthrough infections," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UCSF infectious disease specialist.
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At-home antigen tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests. Experts say they are most accurate when people have COVID symptoms.
Another manufacturer, Ellume, an Australian test kit maker, just recalled almost 200,000 tests that were shipped to the U.S. due to concerns about a higher-than-expected rate of false positives.