Today BC Public Health was excited to announce the availability of a new COVID-19 test sample collection method for children in grades K-12. Instead of the much more invasive nasal swab method, students may instead opt for the gargle and spit method. This new method is still a PCR COVID-19 test, only the sample is collected is different. What makes this especially exciting is that this new method was designed and produced right here in BC. Thanks to the local production of the collection tubes, BC will be less reliant on the global supply of nasal swabs, which are heavily in demand worldwide.
Currently, this sample collection option is only available for students between Kindergarten and Grade 12, but as production and availability ramp up, it is hoped that it can be rolled out for people of all ages. Despite the ease of this collection method, the test will still need to be administered at a testing facility. There are currently no options for at-home testing.
In related news, Health Minister Patty Hajdu has announced that none of the antigen “rapid test” options for COVID-19 that have been submitted for Canadian approval have met our accuracy standards. This news comes despite the recent approval of antigen “rapid tests” by the FDA in the US. The Health Minister went on to say “We will not at Health Canada approve a test that, in any way, endangers Canadians’ health and I will say tests that don’t have a degree of accuracy to the satisfaction of the regulators can actually create further harms in communities.”
Antigen testing differs from PCR testing in that it tests for viral proteins and not genetic material. The benefit of this difference is that you are much less likely to get false positives since it can only return a positive result when the person has a very high amount of viral proteins in their system. Unfortunately, this also means the chance of false negatives is higher, which can cause a false sense of security in the patient, and lead to secondary transmissions.
In other news, there is a little more information now available regarding the pause in the AstraZeneca Vaccine Candidate study, and what happened to the patient that led to it. The patient was a healthy 37-year-old woman who had her second (and final) dose of the vaccine in late August. On September 2nd, while running, she “had a trip (not fall) with a jolt.” The next day she had symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis and was hospitalized on September 5th.
Currently, this situation is being considered a “one-off” and the trials have since resumed in most places and will resume shortly in the US as well. Experts are watching the study very closely for any additional cases of unexpected serious side effects or illness.
That’s all for now, stay safe everyone!