Home 5 Articles 5 Leading Lab Organizations Ask White House to Resolve COVID-19 Testing Supplies Shortages

Leading Lab Organizations Ask White House to Resolve COVID-19 Testing Supplies Shortages

by | Oct 19, 2020

COVID-19 lab testing supplies have been a bottleneck from the moment the public health emergency began. But what’s less well understood is that the supplies problems stem not just from the lack of volume but also transparency with regard to allocation. With that in mind, a group of leading lab organizations have appealed directly to […]

COVID-19 lab testing supplies have been a bottleneck from the moment the public health emergency began. But what’s less well understood is that the supplies problems stem not just from the lack of volume but also transparency with regard to allocation. With that in mind, a group of leading lab organizations have appealed directly to the Vice President of the U.S. for help. The Letter to Pence The Oct. 6 letter to Vice-President Mike Pence asking for the White House to play a more active role in promoting transparency on the allocation of COVID-19 testing supplies was signed by six organizations representing lab professionals from across the country, including:
  • The American Association of Bioanalysts;
  • The American Association for Clinical Chemistry;
  • American Medical Technologists;
  • The American Society for Microbiology;
  • The Association for Molecular Pathology; and
  • The National Independent Laboratory Association.
The organizations also directed copies of the letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, White House Coronavirus Response Co-ordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and White House Coronavirus Testing Co-ordinator Dr. Brett Giroir. Testing Supplies Challenges The letter’s signatories provide SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR, antibody, and antigen testing using a variety of platforms. These tests, the letter stated, require supplies that are currently in severe shortage, including pipette tips, reagents, and test kits. Because of shortages, these organizations stated that they’re operating below their potential testing capacity and below the capacity that their communities demand. As a result, COVID-19 test volume is lower and turnaround time is longer than it should be. As an example, the letter cites one lab that’s currently processing only 500 tests per day, far below its capacity to provide at least 3,000 tests per day. Compounding this problem, the letter continues, is the lack of transparency into the federal government’s acquisition and distribution of testing supplies to states and private labs. According to the letter, current efforts to share information on supply availability, such as the FDA’s Medical Device Shortage listing, lack the specificity necessary to enable labs to understand what supplies are in production, where the supplies can be procured and when they will be available. “Nearly eight months into the COVID-19 public health emergency, the medical supply chain remains weak and laboratories still do not have the supplies needed to meet the testing needs of their communities,” the letter states. “Until the federal government takes action, these shortages will persist, future surges in the pandemic will occur, and patients will continue to suffer.” What the Organizations Want Of course, the letter writers asked the White House to encourage production of the supplies and reagents which are in short supply. But the crux of their message focuses on transparency and logistics. The letter urged the White House Coronavirus Task Force to lead a coordinated federal effort to transparently communicate information on the availability of COVID-19 testing supplies and to do everything possible to encourage the production of sufficient testing supplies to meet the needs of every state. “Our organizations would like to offer our partnership in that pursuit, but believe your leadership is greatly needed,” according to the letter. “We cannot rely on one test platform or two or three large manufacturers to increase our testing capacity to the level our country demands.” A coordinated national response spearheaded by the White House “would enhance our nation’s response to the pandemic, reduce wait time for COVID-19 test results, and permit our members to operate closer to the needed testing capacity,” the letter states. Takeaway The six signatory organizations have asked for a meeting to discuss the supplies issues that their letter documents. As of yet, no such meeting has been scheduled and it’s unclear if one will ever be. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no one’s listening. Other letters from the lab industry to the Vice President asking for help with the supplies situation have had at least some impact on the White House. It remains to be seen if this one will as well.

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