Millions of rapid COVID tests gather dust as some provinces use a fraction of their supply
Months after premiers called on the federal government to step up approvals and deliveries of COVID-19 rapid test devices, CBC News learned that millions of tests provided to provincial governments had never been used.
CBC News Network Power and politics contacted each province to ask how many tests they have received from the federal government and how many of those tests have been used to date. Only Saskatchewan was unable to provide detailed figures at the time of publication.
The use of rapid tests varies from province to province. Prince Edward Island used the largest percentage of tests sent to it by the federal government – 25% of its 37,000 tests.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney lobbied the federal government to speed up approval of rapid tests in the spring and threatened to acquire tests from other countries if Health Canada does not approve them quickly enough here . Alberta has only used 17,000 of the 1.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests it has received so far from the federal government – just 0.89% of the total.
“The direction I have given to our officials is, if we see a highly credible regulatory body, drugs in a peer jurisdiction like the European Union, Australia or the United States that has approved a test or a vaccine or drug, we should continue in that direction, “Kenney told CBC News Network. Power and politics in April. “We shouldn’t wait for Health Canada to catch up.”
Although Alberta used the smallest percentage of its available tests, an analysis from CBC News shows that other provinces used only a fraction of their inventory.
Quebec used only 0.92% of its 2.6 million tests, while Newfoundland and Labrador used 0.90% of its 144,240 tests and Manitoba only used 1, 49% of its 620,376 tests.
Trudeau urges provinces for faster tests
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged provinces to use the tests and discussed the tests during his call with premiers last week, and again at Wednesday morning’s press conference.
“We know that rapid testing, even at this very moment with the spread of variants, is really important in getting us to a place where we’re starting mass vaccinations with ever lower case numbers,” Trudeau said. .
“So, as we have sent almost 20 million rapid tests across the country, we really hope and are excited about the various innovative and creative ways and approaches to their use.”
Trudeau’s push for faster testing is not surprising, given that Nova Scotia only used 5.57% of its 287,000 tests and New Brunswick only used 4.15 % of its 284,064 tests.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan told reporters today his province’s reluctance to use rapid tests extensively is linked to his provinces’ findings that they lead to high false positive rates and false negatives.
We cannot be willfully ignorant when we have the tools that can shed light on what is going on …– Dr David Naylor
The numbers are better in British Columbia – where the provincial government deployed 17.69% of its 1.3 million tests – and in Ontario, where the province used 18.47% of its 5,413,872 tests.
In September, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called on Health Canada to make rapid test approval its “number one priority.”
“It’s quite disappointing,” said Dr David Naylor, co-chair of the COVID-19 immunity working group. Power and politics Wednesday. “The case for these tests is strong … as a screening test. We have to hope that these now spread in this important phase and are widely used.”
Each tool in the toolbox
Naylor, who is also a member of the federal government’s expert advisory panel on COVID-19 testing and screening, said rapid tests were not as accurate as lab tests, but were very good for determining infectivity – the ability of a virus. to infect a new host.
“You have to think of them as a screening test. If you get a positive result you still want to confirm it with the benchmark test, but the point is, we need the information,” he said.
“We cannot be willfully ignorant when we have the tools that can shed light on what is going on in these settings where people are thrown together, where the risk of transmission is quite high.
Watch: Dr David Naylor and Dr Irfan Dhalla on the few rapid tests performed by the provinces:
Dr Irfan Dhalla, co-chair of the Federal Government’s Expert Advisory Panel on Testing and Screening for COVID-19, said Power and politics animate Vassy Kapelos that rapid tests can be effective tools for screening people in the workplace and in schools.
Dhalla cited the example of the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, who generously used rapid tests in their last season and saw no cases of the disease in their organization.
“We should use all the tools we have in our toolbox at this point in the pandemic to keep Canadians safe,” he said.