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Global COVID-19 rapid test shortage contributes to price-gouging concern in B.C.

Click to play video: 'Rush for COVID-19 rapid tests drives up prices' Rush for COVID-19 rapid tests drives up prices
The rush for COVID-19 rapid tests is driving up prices in some cases, forcing consumers to pay more than they planned. Christa Dao reports – Jan 25, 2022

Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 are rapidly disappearing from the shelves of some B.C. pharmacies, and at least one pharmacy owner is concerned about price-gouging.

Peter Dang, owner of Harvard Pharmacy in Vancouver, said the rapid tests used to be available for purchase at $5 each, but a private company recently offered to sell them to him at $16 each.

His only stock flew off the shelves as soon as it arrived and he has not been able to replace it.

“The cost is going up and up and it’s not fair for the public to have to pay whatever the retail price for that is, Dang said in an interview with Global News. “It’s not cheap.”

Other pharmacies have told Global News rapid test kits sell for about $28 each. Prices are cheaper online, but often require purchases in bulk that range from $200 to $400 for 25 tests.

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Read more: B.C. extends vaccine card program until June 30

Pressed on price-gouging and kit shortages at a Tuesday pandemic briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she couldn’t comment on private market prices.

She noted, however, a “global shortage” of rapid tests.

“We look to our neighbours to the south where they’ve been trying to get large numbers that affects the amount we’ve been getting from Canada, so I expect that has something to do with it as well,” she said.

“We will continued to make the tests available in those settings where they are most useful first.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: The difference between event capacity in B.C. and indoor celebrations' COVID-19: The difference between event capacity in B.C. and indoor celebrations
COVID-19: The difference between event capacity in B.C. and indoor celebrations – Jan 25, 2022

British Columbia is expecting 10.8 million rapid tests from Ottawa between now and mid-February, and they will be distributed based on provincial priorities — including schools, long-term care homes and health-care worker settings.

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“Obviously, no one wants to see anybody gouged, and that’s something to look at,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix at the briefing. “It’s outside of the health-care system … we’ll obviously be looking at it.”

The province said in December it hopes to expand at-home testing kits for British Columbians this month.

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