Biden Governance Rejects October Proposal for “Free Holiday Quick Tests”

The fury with which public health experts welcomed Psaki’s comments reflects their long-standing frustration with an administration that, in their view, has focused almost exclusively on vaccinating children. the American public, at the expense of other important aspects of the response, from shoot at weapons abroad to make high-quality masks widely available. The push for rapid testing, in particular, seems to have faced particular challenges when fighting COVID-19 in the United States in the 21st century. Difficulties include regulatory intent to measure devices test for subtle sensitivities, rather than public health utility; a medical attitude in which doctors tend to view patients’ test results as their only way to communicate; and policy doubts, however, too much rapid testing could somehow signal to wary Americans that they may be testing their way through the pandemic and bypassing vaccinations. completely. “Can not deny that [the administration] Dr Michael Mina, a supporter of rapid testing, who attended the meeting at the White House in October, said. The US government “does not support the concept of testing as an appropriate mitigation tool.”

On Tuesday, in the face of a dreaded omicron rise, a flurry of holiday travel, and the image of Americans waiting in hour-long test tracks from Brooklyn to Miami, Biden finally made a statement. that his administration will do what many experts have urged since day one. of the COVID-19 pandemic: Giving Americans the ability to self-diagnose. The federal government will launch a website next month where individuals can request free rapid tests that will be delivered to their homes. That plan calls for 500 million testing kits, which the administration has yet to procure.

“The administration has been focused on expanding testing from the start,” said Dr Tom Inglesby, who in January will become a senior adviser on testing for the White House COVID-19 response team. Vanity Fair. “It has always been a mainstay of the approach.” When Biden took office, there was no rapid, at-home COVID test on the market; there are now 13. And the monthly supply has almost quadrupled since late summer. According to Mara Aspinall, co-founder of the biomedical diagnostics program at Arizona State University, the administration has invested more than $23 billion in expanding testing, enhancing manufacturing capacity and improving gene sequencing.

But the president’s statement on Tuesday caused many experts to see it as “a mirror too little, too late”, such as Dr Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, say. a Substack post on Tuesday. Topol called its plan to offer 500 million free rapid tests next year “completely inadequate,” writing, “We need several billion of these and have needed them for over a year to help stop the spread of the virus.” lan, as authenticated and relied upon in many countries worldwide.”

Critics say the Biden administration has been slow to launch testing, in part because it sees vaccination as the best route out of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured Americans earlier this summer that, once vaccinated, they could ditch their masks and forgo testing. Those claims were quickly proven untrue as breakout infections increased. Dr Jay Wohlgemuth, medical director at Quest Diagnostics, said: “We put all our eggs in the vaccine basket and it just wasn’t enough. Vanity Fair.

Three experts who have been in contact with the White House believe the Biden administration has stripped them of the right to rapid testing, in part due to concerns that people will choose that method over vaccination. As one expert put it, “Clearly they feel that people who don’t want to be vaccinated might prefer a quick test that doesn’t need to be tied down.” The administration is committed to both, said Tom Inglesby of the White House: “In our analysis, they are not in competition with each other. They are not zero sum. ”

It has fallen to a small group of determined advocates who argue that rapid testing is a necessary strategic tool and should be pursued as aggressively as vaccination. Chief among them is Dr. Michael Mina, who until recently worked as an assistant professor of epidemiology, immunology, and infectious diseases at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and an associate director. medical in diagnostic molecular virology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. . He is currently the chief scientific officer of a Miami-based diagnostics company eMed.

His journey began as early as January 2020, when it became clear to him that Boston would need the COVID tests it didn’t have. He sought funding from Women’s Hospital and Brigham to build a trial. “They thought it was a joke,” he said of some hospital pathology officials.

So he went to the Broad Institute, got approval to use its sequencing platform, and helped set up what had become a phenomenal experimental laboratory there. From Broad, he returned to leading Boston hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s, Tufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, to provide Broad’s new testing capacity as an additional resource. . “The resistance I received was amazing and quick,” he said. There are “pee contests everywhere,” as doctors work to protect their turf as they conduct hospital examinations. Biden Governance Rejects October Proposal for “Free Holiday Quick Tests”

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