The World Health Organization (WHO) and some nonprofit organizations have agreed to help provide access to 120 million antigen tests to 133 low and middle-income countries that can provide results in 15-30 minutes rather than hours or days.
This will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular polymerase chain reactions (PCR) tests.
Apart from the WHO, other organizations involved in this milestone agreement announced by the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator include the Bills & Melinda Foundation, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Global Fund, Unitaid.
The tests which are developed by Abbott Laboratories and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings.
Both companies’ tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests, enabling countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing and treating people for COVID-19 at the point of care particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems. The 2 firms are reserving a fifth of their production to countries most in need. The distribution will begin in October.
The agreements between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the test manufacturers, Abbott and SD Biosensor, make available innovative tests that will cost $5 each or less.
The Global Fund is also participating; though further funding is needed. They are committing an initial $50 million to enable countries to purchase the new tests, with the first orders expected to be placed this week.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.’’
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He said the quicker the coronavirus disease is diagnosed, the faster action can be taken to isolate and treat those with the virus and trace their contacts. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.