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CVS is now carrying over-the-counter COVID-19 tests

While none are officially FDA approved, the agency has cleared them under emergency use authorization.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

(Photo courtesy of CVS Health)(Photo courtesy of CVS Health)

For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have had to go to established testing sites to be tested for the coronavirus, a process that can be time-consuming in driving and wait times for both test and results. CVS Pharmacy, the retail arm of CVS Health, is looking to change that by making three over-the-counter testing options available in its physical and virtual stores.

Two deliver test results in 15 minutes.

The tests include the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test and the Pixel by Labcorp PCR Test Home Collection Kit. All three tests have received FDA Emergency Use Authorization. They do not require a prescription, and can be used by those with or without symptoms.

All three are tests that a consumer can conduct at home. That fact promises to make the process faster and more convenient. Testing, along with social distancing, mask-wearing and vaccinations, is one of the key tools in combating the spread of the virus and ending the pandemic.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The three kits differ somewhat. The Ellume test was the first rapid at-home test to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for use without a prescription. It delivers results in about 15 minutes via a free app for smartphones, without the need for a second test.

Beginning this week, CVS Pharmacy will roll the test out in select locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. By the end of May, it will be available in most CVS locations, as well as in its online store.

The Abbott BinaxNOW test also delivers results in about 15 minutes. Each box contains two tests, which should be administered twice over three days, with at least 36 hours between tests. It's available online and will physically appear on shelves this week in about 5,600 locations, with more to follow.

The Pixel by Labcorp test is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the same used by physicians. Results are available in a day or two and can be accessed on the company's website. It's available on the CVS website and in select stores in Alabama, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

These testing options are not covered by insurance and do not test the efficacy of vaccination. None are officially FDA-approved, but have passed muster for EUA.

According to CVS Health, the company has completed more than 15 million coronavirus tests to date across roughly 4,800 testing sites, 1,000 of which have provided rapid-result testing. 

THE LARGER TREND

In addition to testing, CVS Health is also a player in the vaccination game. Through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP), the company is now administering vaccines in roughly 1,200 stores across 29 states and Puerto Rico.

According to CVS data, its pharmacy teams had completed second doses at all skilled nursing facilities by mid-March. Second doses at assisted living and other facilities were 91% complete, with more than half of third and final visits complete. That's good for about 45 million vaccine doses overall.

A poll released in March shows that 71% of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are now ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a dose becomes available to them, or had already gotten vaccinated by the time they were polled in late January. That's up from 58% in October.

ON THE RECORD

"Access to testing continues to be an important part of the nation's pandemic response," said George Coleman, senior vice president and chief merchant at CVS Pharmacy. "Making OTC COVID-19 tests available to our customers helps remove barriers by providing convenient options for testing.

"CVS Health has been a leader in providing accessible testing in communities nationwide, and we continue to bring new solutions to market to ensure that consumers have a variety of COVID-19 testing options available to them."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com