Rapid test advocacy kit

Rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2 would change the game, but your help is needed to make these tests available.

Current tests described as “rapid” still require equipment and the results aren’t as rapid as possible. The sticking point is around FDA requirements about test sensitivity. The most rapid tests aren’t authorized yet because they are less sensitive than clinical tests. However, although clinical-grade tests are necessary to diagnose cases for treatment, disease surveillance using rapid tests can greatly deter community spread even if they are somewhat less sensitive.

What does it mean?

Imagine a world in which you can once again go to work every day, send your kids to school without worry, dine in a restaurant, go to a ball game, worship in church, or attend a concert. The test takes 5-10 minutes and involves a simple step like spitting in a solution or licking a strip of paper. When you pass, you’re in.

How can I help?

  1. Write to your representatives.
  2. Call the office of each one.
  3. Enlist other advocates to do the same.

Representatives

Email

Here are some sample messages you can copy and paste into email. There are also samples on RapidTest.org.

Letter to Congress

SUBJECT: Ask the FDA to Allow COVID-19 Rapid Testing

Dear [Senator / Representative],

The technology already exists for a rapid, inexpensive, at home, spit on paper, SARS-CoV-2 test. This lateral flow antigen test is cheaper and faster than tests from Quidel Corporation and Becton, Dickinson and Company which currently have emergency use authorization from the FDA. Millions of lateral flow antigen tests could easily be manufactured and distributed for home use, enabling frequent testing of a large percentage of the population and allowing us to reopen schools and the economy safely. This approach has been proposed by Dr. Michael Mina, Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University.

I am writing to request your support in obtaining the following:

  1. A relaxation of the FDA’s strict sensitivity threshold for rapid tests.
  2. Government manufacture of such tests, or provision for advance market commitments for private companies to manufacture them.

The FDA currently requires that any rapid test must meet a strict sensitivity threshold. However, while such sensitivity is appropriate for clinical settings, even the moderate sensitivity of a lateral flow antigen test is effective for surveillance and slowing community spread. Through frequent repetition, a rapid test overcomes its limitations and detects more infections than a clinical grade test with a higher turnaround time.

Please see https://www.rapidtests.org for more information.

Thank you for your help,

[Insert your name]

Letter to your state Governor

SUBJECT: Authorize COVID-19 Rapid Testing

The technology already exists for a rapid, inexpensive, at home, spit on paper, SARS-CoV-2 test. This lateral flow antigen test is cheaper and faster than tests from Quidel Corporation and Becton, Dickinson and Company which currently have emergency use authorization from the FDA. Millions of lateral flow antigen tests could easily be manufactured and distributed for home use, enabling frequent testing of a large percentage of the population and allowing us to reopen schools and the economy safely. This approach has been proposed by Dr. Michael Mina, Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University.

I am writing to ask you to authorize use of rapid tests such as the lateral flow antigen test which, as Governor, you can do without FDA approval.

The FDA currently requires that any rapid test must meet a strict sensitivity threshold. However, while such sensitivity is appropriate for clinical settings, even the moderate sensitivity of a lateral flow antigen test is effective for surveillance and slowing community spread. Through frequent repetition, a rapid test overcomes its limitations and detects more infections than a clinical grade test with a higher turnaround time.

Please see https://www.rapidtests.org for more information.

Thank you for your help,

[Insert your name]

Phone calls

You can call the office of each one of your representatives to make the same request. Here is some advice about that. Omit the persuasion and just say directly what you want. Staffers who take your phone call simply record the issue and position of each person that calls. For all I know, maybe that’s true for email, too. I’m unsure about that part. I just try to make the ask as short as possible.

Grow the advocacy

Suggestions for growing advocates

Here is a starter list with suggestions of where to enlist more help. Get in touch and ask them to write their representatives, too. It helps to recruit advocates from groups and organizations with political influence. You can send them to RapidTests.org or this blog post.

Do you know any people from this list?

  • Every parent with school-age children.
  • Unions. For example, teachers unions would be good advocates now as we return to school.
  • Sports organizations.
  • Churches and religous organizations.
  • Arts organizations.
  • School superintendants.
  • Trade associations, like restaurant assotiations.