Self-tests are key to expanding access to testing

Last week, the World Health Organization issued guidance on self-testing for COVID-19. This is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to expand access to testing as a vital tool to contain the pandemic in every country across the globe.

Self-testing was acknowledged in the very first ACT-Accelerator plan back in 2020 as having game-changing potential in high- and low-income countries alike, as self-tests uniquely empower people to take control of their health, to protect themselves and their communities. The development of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 – the fastest in history – paved the way to making self-testing for the disease a reality, and today they are a normalized fact of life in most high-income countries. But in low- and middle-income countries, it’s a different, yet familiar, story. Multiple barriers to access have left the most vulnerable corners of the world behind, yet again.

Working with our partners, including Africa CDC, Brazil and South Africa, we have been putting in place the groundwork for the roll out of self-tests – from helping countries to develop guidance on the implementation of self-tests, to the announcement last month of a financial and technical support package to accelerate self-testing in low- and middle-income countries. We are currently running a set of pilot studies to evaluate pharmacy-based delivery of testing.

We have also been monitoring the emergency authorizations of rapid antigen tests (Ag RDTs) for COVID-19, including their authorization for use as self-tests by any of the five founding members of the Global Harmonization Task Force (now the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) – you can review our summary table here.
It is essential that we get COVID-19 self-tests into the hands of those who need them, and the publication of the WHO guidance on COVID-19 self-testing is a critical step forward. We must grasp the nettle and ensure that we capitalize on the momentum that is currently behind self-testing, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health and access the care they need.

Bill Rodriguez