First antigen rapid test for COVID-19 gets Canadian approval

First antigen rapid test for COVID-19 gets Canadian approval

OTTAWA — Shortly after Health Canada approved the first rapid antigen test for COVID-19, the federal government said more than 8.5 million of them would arrive by the end of the year.

Abbott Rapid Diagnostics in Germany got the greenlight from Health Canada Tuesday to sell its Panbio antigen rapid test in Canada — the first antigen-based COVID-19 tool to get such approval.

“Antigen tests are expected to have a few advantages, including being easier to perform with limited training, and being able to be done at the point of care with generally more rapid results,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday at a briefing in Ottawa.

Antigens are molecules specific to a certain virus that sit outside the virus and trigger an immune response when the body detects them. The Panbio test looks for the COVID-19 specific antigen in samples taken of the back of the nose or throat.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada signed a contract with Abbott to get 8.5 million Panbio tests by the end of the year, and has an option for 12 million more in 2021. She said buying the second allotment will happen only if the government finds the tests have proven to be helpful in Canada.

All of the tests previously approved by Health Canada are polymerase chain reaction tests, or PCR, which search for the presence of the virus’s genetic material. Most of those tests have to be completed in a laboratory, after a sample is taken from a patient. Canada has approved three rapid versions that can be analyzed on site and don’t need a laboratory.

That includes the ID Now test from Abbott Diagnostics in the United States, which Health Canada approved last week. The federal government has a contract to buy 7.9 million of them. The first shipment is set to arrive next week and 2.5 million are expected by the end of December.

Health Canada will distribute the tests to the provinces and territories, based on an agreement to ensure equitable distribution that takes into account what provinces need.

Health Canada approved Cepheid’s GeneXpert last spring. It produces results in less than an hour and has been deployed in small numbers to remote northern communities in Manitoba, Quebec and Nunavut.

The BCube from Hyris was approved in September, and the company reports being in talks with Canadian buyers in both the public and private sectors. It produces a result in about 90 minutes.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the public health guidance for how antigen tests can be used in Canada is coming soon, but that in general, they are used to complement the existing lab tests, not replace them.

A work camp or a meat-packing plant where workers need to be regularly tested to prevent a massive outbreak, would be examples of where they could be used, said Njoo. Schools, long-term care facilities, and hospitals are other locations mentioned as potential locations for rapid tests to be deployed.

Those suggestions mimic the recommendations made by the World Health Organization for antigen tests in September. Early in the pandemic, the WHO warned antigen tests should not be used outside of research settings, but in September issued guidance for clinical use as well.

The WHO is also buying and distributing 120 million antigen rapid tests to low and middle-income countries, with the Panbio test among those it intends to buy.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel said Tuesday the Canadian government lacks a strategy to use the rapid tests to help ease the long waits for testing and disruptions to people’s lives.

It is not clear when the rapid tests will be put to use in Canada, only that the first ID Now tests are to arrive at a Canadian warehouse from the United States next week.

The ID Now tests came under some scrutiny in the United States over the weekend when it was revealed they were used at the White House to test staff almost daily, whether they had symptoms or not.

The White House is now the site of an outbreak of COVID-19 that has affected President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and multiple members of his staff.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the senior medical adviser to the deputy minister of health, said that in Canada, the tests are approved only for use on patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, and only within the first seven days after symptoms appear.

She said Health Canada is confident in the studies that show ID Now tests accurately diagnose a positive case 92.9 per cent of the time, and that negative results are accurate more than 98 per cent of the time.

Abbott’s website says the Panbio test is accurate with positive results 93 per cent of the time, and negative results 99 per cent of the time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

Whatever snow may possibly fall in Red Deer on the weekend will melt when it hits the warm ground, says meteorologist Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Weather expected to get warmer next week in Red Deer

It’s going to be a cold weekend, according to Environment Canada. Saturday… Continue reading

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Indigenous fishermen carry lobster traps in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan
Federal representative hopes to ease tensions in Nova Scotia lobster dispute

HALIFAX — The man tasked with lowering the temperature in a heated… Continue reading

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read