As more Canadian provinces unveil rapid COVID-19 testing strategies in schools, some advocates say those measures should become “practical” as the United States deals with supply shortages.
In the South, many companies doing rapid testing and shipping to countries around the world, including Canada, are facing a supply crunch due to demand from US employers.
To ensure that kits are not wasted, provinces must have targeted strategies, said Dr Anna Banerjee, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Temerti Faculty of Medicine.
“We need to be careful where we use it to make sure it’s used in the right scenario,” she said. “If there’s a place where the COVID rate is very high or there’s an outbreak actively going on in the school, that might help.”
Ontario and Alberta were the latest provinces to join the rapid test school strategy on Tuesday, announcing “targeted” programs in those settings.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said rapid tests would be made available at a local medical officer of health’s discretion based on “local epidemiological circumstances.”
That’s a good way to think about it, Banerjee said.
“But I think to use it in areas where the spread of COVID is very low and there is no outbreak, or there are very few cases, then you are basically wasting testing. “
In the US, employers demanding high volumes of rapid testing have resulted in a nationwide shortage of kits, Industry executives and state officials told Reuters.
Manufacturers are ramping up production to meet rising demand, but it will take weeks to months to ramp up production, half a dozen industry executives told Reuters, resulting in supply shortages in the near term.
About a dozen state governments said they are grappling with a shortage of rapid tests, which provide on-the-spot results in minutes and are a key component of COVID-19 surveillance programmes.
Some companies feeling the pressure include Quiddell Corp., which is listed as a supplier to Canada.
“Employer demand has gone insane,” Quidl chief executive Doug Bryant said in a Reuters story. “We will not be able to fulfill all the requests that we have.”
Canadian officials did not respond directly to questions on the potential impact, but a Health Canada spokesperson directed Granthshala News to the government. Current Rapid Test Stockpile.
To date, the federal government has received just over 53 million rapid tests. Of those, just over 43 million tests have been sent to provinces and territories, about nine million of those tests have been used, and about 10 million are in emergency supplies.
Canada has sourced testing kits from several multinational manufacturers, including US-based Quiddell. Of the 53 million rapid tests received so far, 850,000 are Quidel’s products and 90,600 have been shipped.
When new tests arrive in Canada, it depends on specific agreements, The government said on its website.
“Not all deliveries come at the same time,” it said. “Suppliers continue to ship on a regular basis as per the schedule set forth in each contract.”
A spokesman for the Ontario government told Granthshala News that based on demand projections, “supply is not currently a concern.”
The total number of rapid tests required in schools will depend on the move forward by local public health units, the spokesperson said, adding the province “continues to work closely with Health Canada to revise supply and demand projections as needed.”
Regardless, thousands of students in Ontario may soon be running out of that supply.
That’s why it’s important for provinces to use rapid testing to make sure their deployment strategy is “practical,” said People for Education executive director Annie Kidder, citing Saskatchewan and Quebec as examples.
“There are many different ways to do this,” she said. “But I think we have to be something practical about this.”
The provinces with the Rapid School Test Project are Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta.
Feather Mondays in Saskatchewan, a voluntary rapid-testing program launched across the province, targeting families with students aged 11 and under. Parents can contact their children’s school about getting self-testing kits at home for their children and all members of the household. However, self-testing is only for asymptomatic screening.
in Nova Scotia, Families with children from pre-primary to grade 6 in the province’s public school system will receive a free COVID-19 rapid testing kit. Volunteers are building a pilot program that will provide 320,000 rapid tests to families.
Within a few weeks, Nova Scotia schools will give nasal swab test kits to families who want them, along with instructions on how to use them at home.
In Quebec, the province is introducing rapid testing in preschool and primary schools. Initiatives were already underway in some areas, including Montreal. The goal is to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in the school setting.
In Ontario, the province’s program is voluntary, targeting non-vaccinated students with no symptoms who are not high-risk contacts of a case. It affects schools and licensed child-care settings.
Alberta also announced on Tuesday that it would launch a targeted rapid test program for schools experiencing an outbreak. Under that program, students from Kindergarten to Class 6 will be able to be tested at home twice a week. Parents can get the test from their child’s school.