Industry Buzz

Despite Improvements, Supplies Shortages Continue to Hinder COVID-19 Testing

More than a year into the pandemic, many labs and pathologists are still having a hard time securing the supplies they need to provide COVID-19 testing. According to a new nationwide survey by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) of pathologists, while the situation has improved since the nightmares of last June, finding a steady stream of reagents, pipettes, swabs and viral transport media remains a challenge for nearly half (45 percent) of testing labs. Here’s a quick briefing on the key takeaways from the survey.

The CAP Survey

The leading trade association for board-certified pathologists, the CAP has been tracking the COVID-19 testing supplies situation since the early weeks of the pandemic. The most recent survey was carried out from Jan. 27 to Feb. 11, 2021 and asks about the experiences of the past three months. The CAP received responses from 680 board-certified pathologists, a 4.6 percent response rate, making the sample nationally representative with a +/-3.7 percent margin of error. Among the respondents:

  • 45 percent reported that they were experiencing difficulties acquiring reagents within the past three months (as compared to 64 percent reported in the last survey conducted in June);
  • 30 percent reported difficulties in acquiring pipette tips;
  • 19 percent reported difficulties in securing supplies such as SARS-CoV-2 instruments;
  • 18 percent reported difficulties in obtaining flocked nasopharyngeal swabs (as opposed to 60 percent in June); and
  • 17 percent reported difficulties in obtaining viral transport media/universal transport media (as opposed to 55 percent in June).

Hospital Lab Staff Getting COVID-19 Vaccination at Nearly Twice the Rate of Independent Lab Staff

The CAP survey also asked board-certified pathologists about their own and staff’s access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Results: 94 percent reported that their colleagues have received the vaccination, and 89 percent said that they’ve received the vaccination themselves. The most glaring result was the disparity between hospital and independent lab testing staff, with 83 percent of hospital staffers saying they’ve gotten the vaccination compared to only 39 percent of testing personnel in independent labs.


The survey suggests that while things are moving in the right direction, the COVID-19 testing supplies shortages haven’t yet been eliminated, particularly with regard to reagents. CAP is working with the Biden Administration to improve the supply chain situation. “As pathologists are the experts on medical diagnoses, pathologists share your desire to provide greater access to COVID-19 testing and we must also be part of the public policy decision- making process,” said CAP President Patrick Godbey, MD, FCAP in a press release. “Specifically, our expertise can help address needed COVID-19 coverage and testing improvements, supply chain issues, required regulatory action, and the economics of laboratory medicine that ensure continued access to necessary services.”


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