Seven U.S. states have formed an interstate compact with the Rockefeller Foundation to expand the use of rapid point-of-care antigen tests to better manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
The compact — announced yesterday by a bipartisan group of governors leading the states — includes Louisiana, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.
The idea is that by working together, the states are demonstrating to private manufacturers that there is significant demand to scale up the production of antigen tests. Now that the compact is in place, the states are in discussions with Becton Dickinson (NYSE:BDX) and Quidel to purchase 500,000 tests per state, for a total of 3.5 million tests.
“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is the outgoing chair of the National Governors Association.
“I want to thank my fellow governors for signing on to this groundbreaking bipartisan agreement, which we have just finalized after weeks of discussions with the Rockefeller Foundation. We will be working to bring additional states, cities, and local governments on board as this initiative moves forward,” Hogan said in a news release.
Antigen tests quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus. FDA has described positive results from antigen tests as highly accurate, but there’s a higher chance of false negatives than the slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that look for genetic material from the virus. FDA officials have described antigen tests as “important in the overall response against COVID-19 as they can generally be produced at a lower cost than PCR tests.”
The U.S. Departement of Health and Human Services announced last month that it was buying hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 antigen tests from BD, but experts have said more testing is needed if the U.S. is to properly manage the pandemic.