TORONTO (Reuters) – Health Canada expects to authorize new antigen tests for COVID-19 soon, a senior government official said on Tuesday, in an effort to provide additional testing as a second wave of novel coronavirus infections overwhelms laboratories.
Antigen tests can provide rapid results outside of a lab, but may be less accurate than some lab-based diagnostic tests. They are already widely used in the United States and elsewhere.
“We have a number of them under review at the moment – it is our priority,” Supriya Sharma, senior medical advisor for Health Canada, said during a media briefing. “For some of them we are, I think, very close to having a final decision.”
Sharma said the tests under review could be used outside of healthcare settings.
While other countries have approved new ways to test for COVID-19 in recent months, like rapid point-of-care tests, much of Canada is stuck with the basics: deep nasal swabs collected by healthcare workers and sent off to labs.
Some experts have argued that widespread testing in schools and workplaces could help bring the pandemic under control.
The regulator is currently reviewing antigen tests from Abbott, Quidel and Sona Nanotech, according to public data.
Separately on Tuesday, the federal government said it had signed an agreement up to buy 7.9 million Abbott ID NOW rapid point of care tests, pending Health Canada approval of that test.
The ID NOW is not an antigen test, but the instruments used to analyze it can be run outside of a major lab, giving rapid results at a clinic or hospital. It won emergency authorization in the United States in March.
As of Sept. 28, Canada has reported 2,176 new cases, taking the total to 155,301, and ten new deaths taking the total 9,278, government data showed.
Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio