Covid-19: Quality of rapid antigen tests was never tested
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Covid-19: Quality of rapid antigen tests was never tested

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The government never tested the quality or effectiveness of the rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 recently introduced into the country’s testing policy, Le Soir reports on Saturday.

The government published a list of 12 rapid tests whose cost will be reimbursed. The tests will be mainly used for front-line health workers, to ease the pressure on testing facilities and reduce the time workers are off work while awaiting results.

The rapid tests are less effective than the standard PCR test, but give a result within 15 minutes, rather than the 5-6 hours required for a standard test.

The list of 12 approved rapid tests was compiled by the federal agency for medications and health products (AFMPS), but according to one specialist, no testing has ever been done.

The 12 approved tests are said to have a sensitivity – their ability to detect antibodies against the disease – of between 90.4% and 97.8%.

Those figures are false,” said Jean-Marc Minon, head of the laboratory at the Citadelle hospital in Liege.

I don’t know what the AFMPS took as a benchmark, but no rapid antigen test offers a sensitivity of more than 90%,” he said. “Those we tested were closer to around 60%.”

And the newspaper reports the CEO of one test manufacturer in Wallonia, who claims that a figure of 97.8% sensitivity is in fact “technically impossible”.

According to Le Soir, the stated efficacy of the tests is based entirely on the manufacturers’ own figures, without independent verification. And in fact, there exists no recognised method of testing the sensitivity of the tests.

The AFMPS responded that the political demand for the tests was urgent, and self-reporting was the only method of evaluation available.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times