Two Personal Short Stories about Rapid Tests
Rapid tests are those tests that we can take quickly and get fast results. They are available in test kits with results ready in about 15 minutes and test for antigens.
“Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. Antigen tests are currently authorized to be performed on nasopharyngeal or nasal swab specimens placed directly into the assay’s extraction buffer or reagent.”Compared to PCR tests, antigen tests are more likely to miss an active COVID-19 infection early in its course or due to low viral load. If infected and asymptomatic for COVID-19, a PCR test is likely to detect the virus. A PCR test can detect infection at lower levels than a rapid antigen test. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 is a molecular test that analyzes your upper respiratory specimen, looking for genetic material (ribonucleic acid or RNA) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists use the PCR technology to amplify small amounts of RNA from specimens into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is replicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detectable if present. ” Both test use nasal swabs or saliva, but the antigen or rapidtests are faster and more readily available while the PCR tests take longer but are more accurate. PCR tests detect virus genetic material while Rapid Antigen Tests look for antigens to the virus.
We are starting to get used to the convenience and quick results of rapid tests – but should we rely on them?
Below are two personal anecdotes about rapid tests:
1. Shoppers Drug Mart Rapid Tests
Recently our major pharmacy/drug store chain Shoppers Drug Mart has been criticized for price-gouging while giving consumers Rapid Tests. The stores were charging $40 per test. There was an implication that the chain was using free test kits to administer the tests. This was denied and it makes sense that the chain pays for the tests.
I recently acquired a bunch of rapid tests – prior to my Thanksgiving Dinner. I thought it would be a good idea, as my husband and I have never been tested, and we wanted our young people to attend – so why not? I would rather not pay for the tests, but I also had not had any reason to require the tests. We felt that it was time for us to get back to enjoying family visits. We had been doing all the right things – isolating, not having gatherings, wearing masks, staying out of public places – but it was time to live. So why not buy some test kits for ourselves?
We hadn’t been exposed, we didn’t have symptoms and we weren’t required for any event – so we weren’t entitled to receive go for free government testing, and we aren’t employed – so no need there. We definitely aren’t travelling internationally – so no travel test needed. I just thought that Rapid Tests might come in handy so that we can feel more comfortable when family visit.
I ordered a box of 5 tests and they arrived by Canada Post within a week! They were easy to use – although I needed my reading glasses to read the directions. How small do pharmaceutical companies think it’s OK to make the font for instructions anyway? Later the tests came in handy during the second anecdote!
I want to share these vendors below – they are NOT affiliate links – I just think everyone has a right to make their own decision to purchase tests – even if they are not entitled to free government ones or they are not travelling.
https://rapidtestandtrace.ca/where-to-buy-rapid-covid-tests-in-ontario/ The minimum order was for 5 tests for $58.00 plus $20 shipping.
https://www.canadianshieldppe.ca/ They also sold 5 packs for $49.95 plus $6.49 tax, shipping free over $125 or pickup available.
Both firms offer lower prices for buying larger quantities of 25 – ($224.99 from Canadian Shield). Wholesale prices are available for quantities over 1000. I’m sure that Shoppers would negotiate a much lower wholesale price, but even if they were paying the qty 25 price – that would be $9 per test – while they are charging consumers a $40 fee. This means the pharmacist or the drug store are netting at least $31 or so per test, which doesn’t seem like they are doing the public a service. I know there is labour involved in implementing the test, but if I can do it, anyone can!
I do feel that this is price-gouging, but Shoppers is a business and they can charge what they like. Our Ontario government has been pressured to provide free rapid tests to everyone, which would be nice – even if this can’t be managed then it would be a positive step if Ontario’s citizens could at least purchase the test kits or tests at cost.
2. Omicron and Rapid Testing:
Recently my husband and I travelled to meet with our son for an event in another province. On the first day of the event, his roommate (at the event) tested positive for Covid 19 with a rapid test and subsequently a PCR test. We are thankful that the young man is better now, but he had to isolate in a hotel on his own. Our son tested negative and continues to do so (now 10 days later), but missed the event and also isolated.
It turned out that the young men were exposed to the Omicron variant. Here is my entirely subjective unscientific Momsplaining version of the events. Some of the details may not be exactly right – but I did my best Momtracing. The good news is that everyone seems to be fine now.
On or before November 9th – 4 people test positive for Covid 19 at an event in Europe, where a group of young Canadians are also attending. The 4 move into isolation, and the rest of the group (and others) move on to another city and then a third city.
All individuals in this story are extremely healthy, double vaccinated and receive daily rapid tests.
November 19th, Canadian “A” tests positive and isolates.
November 21st Canadian “B” tests positive and isolates.
The rest of the Canadian group flies home – having tested negative with rapid tests.
At least one individual “C” from the group has cold-like symptoms but continues to test negative. He returns to his home with other young people about November 22nd and visits with family.
“C” tests positive for Covid 19 November 29th.
His roommates “D” and “E” have been testing negative, and “E” leaves the house once he knows of “C”s test results.
“D” tests positive by December 1.
“E” tests positive after travelling to another city December 3rd. He is our son’s roommate at the event.
I am writing about this because we are all doing the best that we can, but relying on rapid and PCR testing after Covid exposure in double vaccinated people means that cases will continue to slip through.
At some time A and B were exposed to the virus, potentially by people who had tested negative for Covid 19 associated with the November 9th outbreak. They tested positive November 19 and 21 – 10 and 12 days later.
C tested positive 8 days after feeling a little under the weather and testing negative daily until then. He infected D and E. E tested negative daily from exposure some time before November 29 until December 3 – 5 days later.
My point is that we cannot assume that we are negative if we have negative rapidtests if there is any hint of cold symptoms or exposure. We know that rapidtests do not give positive results until the virus reaches a large enough concentration in the sinuses and based on these examples, healthy vaccinated individuals can be infected before rapidtests become positive. Our own experience is that people can rapidtest negative from 5 to 12 days after exposure to Omnicron. Is that enough Momsplaining?
All of these individuals followed the rules provided to them but we have all grown tired of isolating and keeping distant. This example shows that we can’t assume that we don’t have Covid 19 if we have a negative rapid test. As the cases of Omicron multiply, it’s apparent that the rules that we have for travel of testing 1 day or so before flight and being double vaccinated really aren’t going to put a halt to Omicron.