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COVID-19: Growing demand in Okanagan for rapid antigen tests

Click to play video: 'Demands for rapid antigen tests grow in the Okanagan amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant' Demands for rapid antigen tests grow in the Okanagan amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant
Demands for rapid antigen tests grow in the Okanagan amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant – Jan 20, 2022

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues running rampant, demands for rapid antigen tests are growing.

With public health testing sites in the Okanagan and across the province overwhelmed, many people are now looking to buy their own tests.

“We’ve had lots of inquiries,” said Craig Tostenson, pharmacist and owner of the Pharmasave location in Kelowna’s Glenmore area. “We probably get about 10 people a day phoning.”

Read more: Rapid COVID-19 tests: When to take one, and what to do if it’s positive

However, finding tests to buy is proving difficult.

“They’re hard to come by … we’ve been kind of left up to our own devices to find suppliers,” Tostenson told Global News. “I can assume that most of the supply has gone to government sources.”

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Global News contacted 10 pharmacies in Kelowna on Thursday morning and not one had a rapid test for sale.

That has left people scrambling to buy tests online, but, in many cases, they are sold out.

The other option is to get tested at a public health testing site, but that requires certain symptom criteria in order to be tested.

“Right now, my only information says that they have to talk to Interior Health in a testing facility,” Tostenson said.

But some health authorities across the province, including Vancouver Island, have also reported running low on supplies.

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In the Interior Health region, IHA said replenishing testing supplies has at times been challenging.

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“There is a lot of demand for testing at the current moment,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, IHA’s medical health officer.

In an email to Global News, Interior Health stated “IH is monitoring demand for testing across communities, and the supply of rapid antigen tests to our 26 different testing sites is being replenished on a continual basis through the week as stock is available.”

It added, “weather and other factors may have an impact on replenishing supplies.”

“The community is being impacted and we are doing PCR testings and we are also handing out rapid testing, and we are expecting to be handing out a lot more rapid testing in the near future,” Mema said. “So access has become a little bit of a problem.”

Read more: Trudeau pressed on COVID-19 rapid tests, antiviral pills in call with premiers

While securing rapid tests by pharmacies has been a challenge up to this point, many outlets say they hope to get them soon.

“Now (the suppliers) are coming to the private players,” Tostenson said. “And so, now the companies are reaching out to the pharmacies and we’re starting to order now.”

Earlier this week, health minister Adrian Dix said the supply issues are a short-term problem that should be resolved soon.

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“The Omicron variant is spreading quite rapidly and people just want to know whether they have it. If they do, they can go for another PCR test to confirm it,” Tostenson said.

“But at least they can get on with their lives and figure out what they need to do.”

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