COVID-19

Strapped by COVID-19 Testing Supply Shortages, Labs Call on White House for Help

Reagent shortages and supply chain bottlenecks have stymied COVID-19 testing from the very beginning of the crisis. As those problems remain and tests provided slips further behind demand, a handful of the lab industries most powerful representatives have decided to appeal directly to the White House for help.

The Letter to Pence

On July 8, a group of eight organizations representing U.S. labs sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, with copies to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deborah Birx, MD, Response Coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force, urging the government to find remedies for supply chain obstacles to performing COVID-19 tests. The letter signatories include the:

  • American Association of Bioanalysts;
  • American Association for Clinical Chemistry;
  • American Medical Technologists;
  • American Society for Microbiology;
  • Association of Public Health Laboratories;
  • Association for Molecular Pathology;
  • College of American Pathologists; and
  • National Independent Laboratory Association.

“Our members are on the front lines responding to the public health crisis,” the letter begins. Since COVID-19 testing began, “they have experienced significant difficulty acquiring the supplies— test kits, nasopharyngeal and mid-turbinate swabs, transport media, and personal protective equipment (PPE)—needed to perform COVID-19 testing.” The letter notes that labs have even been getting faulty or unusable equipment, including swabs from the Strategic National Stockpile.

The Appeal for Help

Without proper testing supplies and PPE, labs will continue to struggle to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing and assistance in tracking its spread, according to the letter. The assistance requested is essentially information:

  1. Supply Chain Contacts Information

First, the letter asks for a list of the names and contact information for individuals in each state who are overseeing the supply chain for testing supplies and PPE for the federal government. “Many of our members report that they are unable to identify or initiate contact with these individuals,” the letter explains.

  1. Transparency of the Supply Allocation Process

The other request is “visibility into the process of supply allocation, demonstrating that the supplies being distributed at the state level are being allocated in a way that reflects the greatest need to effectively address COVID-19 in the U.S.” According to the letter, labs need to understand in real-time, resource availability and reagent and supply quantities for planning purposes. The federal government should take a leading role in increasing transparency about the availability of these materials from both government and commercial manufacturers.

Takeaway

As the supply chain situation becomes more desperate, testing labs and other stakeholders are stepping forward to sound the alarm. At the end of May, the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), one of the letter’s signatories, published a survey finding that more than 70% of U.S. labs have suffered significant COVID-19 testing delays as a result of supply chain disruptions. The AMP called on the Trump administration and producers of reagents and other testing supplies to furnish labs real-time updates on the availability of testing materials.   

Last month, governors from Michigan, Colorado and Arkansas (two Democrats and a Republican, respectively) criticized the administration for failing to coordinate the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 testing supplies, which they claim is hindering the ramp up of critically needed testing.

 

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