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COVID-19 test makers struggling to meet demand

September 22, 2020

Shortages of reagents, essential chemicals used in diagnostic assays, are the latest supply issue hampering U.S. health systems in their efforts to offer COVID-19 tests to all who need or request them. Some hospitals and other testing operations have returned to restricting tests to the most essential patients despite boosting capacity.

Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers, located in the greater Chicago area, is now only conducting about 1/3 of the testing it was doing this summer because it is receiving only about 1/3 of Abbott’s (ABT -2.0%) rapid tests kits that its has been allocated. An Abbott spokesperson stated that the company was continuing to expand capacity to meet demand and is working with customers to supply as many tests as possible.

The overall number of COVID-19 tests distributed in the U.S. last month was 37.6M, up 138% from April’s 15.8M according to the Advanced Medical Technology Association, a medical device trade group.

Demand has spiked in certain regions experiencing rising infection rates coupled with school reopenings and increased testing in facilities such as nursing homes.

A recent survey by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry revealed that 67% of laboratories are having difficulties obtaining both reagents and test kits, the highest level since the group began canvassing labs in May.

Shortages are likely to persist due to the approaching flu season since those tests use the same components and equipment.

Last week, Abbott announced that it expected to ship “tens of millions” of its BinaxNow COVID-10 Ag Card rapid test this month and 50M/month starting next month.

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