The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) supports the view that affordable and widescale availability of rapid COVID-19 testing is a key component to the country’s COVID19 response and management as we move into the endemic stage of the campaign and adapt to living with the virus.
Readily available rapid tests will help to get our society back to operating normally by minimising the spread of the COVID19 virus.
Testing is Expensive
To date, the testing ecosystem has been criticized for being expensive and inaccessible to a wide cross-section of Jamaicans. The average antigen test from a supplier ranges from US$5.50 to US$11 to the labs or healthcare system in Jamaica. The consumer then pays approximately J$7,500 to be tested. While in other countries with decentralized testing, antigen testing costs are significantly lower, for example, in Germany, where rapid tests are sold directly to the consumer for under US$1 each and in India where they are approximately US$3.50 each.
Reduce Testing Costs
1. Expand the number of doctors doing Antigen Testing
Ensure a seamless process for doctors to be accredited for Point of Care Antigen Testing.
The existing testing environment is regulated by both the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the MOHW. The accreditation process is cumbersome as both JANAAC and MOHW overlap and the process requires extensive documentation, site visits and certification which is simply overkill for a basic Point of Care test which doctors routinely carry out for pregnancy, diabetes among others.
The PSOJ is therefore calling for any existing bottlenecks to be removed and that the data gathering and verification process be streamlined to allow even more approved testing facilities.
2. MoHW should approve more Tests
Jamaica allows for use of 4 four rapid Antigen tests approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are 34 rapid Antigen tests that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which are currently not approved for use in Jamaica. The PSOJ is recommending that, like the rest of the world, the Government should reconsider its policy position and allow for the use of all antigen tests kits approved by both the WHO and FDA. Expanding the options will provide the least costly antigen tests.
3. Allow for Self-Administered Tests
Consideration must also be made to increase the COVID19 test delivery channels through options such as on-site testing by non-accredited third parties, home/self-testing kits.
This availability of tests for both point of care and self-administered/home tests will allow for individuals, families and by extension communities to minimise the spread of the virus.
Screening and Testing in the Workplace
Greater availability of tests and access to point of care tests by doctors will allow for regular testing and screening for COVID in the workplace which will only impact on minimising spread and lost productivity.
4. Zero rate Tax on COVID Antigen Tests
Rapid antigen test allows persons to learn their status in minutes and with this timely knowledge can mitigate the spread of the virus.
Therefore, the ecosystem must be improved to allow for the importation of a variety of tests at affordable price points to be undertaken by more entities such as doctors, nurses, workplaces, and individuals. We need to shift the power in the hands of the people to complement the efforts of the Government and private labs.