Rep. Schrier Pushes for Increased Availability of Inexpensive Rapid COVID-19 Tests at Health Hearing

February 3, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) participated in an Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing today on ramping up production of supplies for testing and vaccines. In her opening remarks, Rep. Schrier focused on the need to increase the availability of inexpensive rapid tests and expand manufacturing of the needed supplies.

“To successfully re-open our communities and especially our schools safely, we need more tools in our toolbox to contain the virus and prevent its spread,” said Rep. Schrier. “Right now, at-home rapid antigen tests done on a regular basis could dramatically slow the spread. For regular at-home testing to work, the tests would have to be cheap enough for people to use every day or two, see if they are shedding virus, and take themselves out of circulation.”

Rep. Schrier went on to highlight that the technology for these rapid tests already exists and held a test up to the camera as an example. But Rep. Schrier pointed out that there are several reasons these tests are not more widely available right now.

Rep. Schrier continued, “So why aren’t they already in our hands? There are lots of reasons. One is that big companies are buying up all the supplies. Their profit is far higher making 1,000, $30 tests than 30,000, $1 tests. Another is that the Trump administration did not put the weight of the federal government behind this concept. Meanwhile, one year in, the disease is out of control, with over 445,000 Americans dead. Daily at-home testing would bend the curve. It is a critical tool to have in the public health toolbox.”

During the hearing, Rep. Schrier went on to question Dr. Luciana Borio, Former Acting Chief Scientist at the FDA, who has served across four Administrations and currently sits on President Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, about whether there has been any head-to-head, “apples to apples” testing done on rapid antigen tests to determine the most effective tests. Dr. Borio told Rep. Schrier that to her knowledge, no, there hadn’t been that type of testing. But went further to say that it is possible to do that type of head-to-head evaluation to determine the best test to invest in, scale up, and roll out to the country. Dr. Borio also acknowledged that “the prior Administration did quite a bit to interfere with FDA’s independence in regulating these tests in public health emergencies” and said “there has been a lot of confusion as a result of this interference. I think FDA is now poised to regain its mission to make sure the American public has access to tests that work as intended.”

“I cannot wait to get these (rapid) tests to everyone in the country in order to get our kids back to school and reopen the economy safely,” concluded Rep. Schrier.