The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration focused on accelerating the production of and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, has announced an agreement to make affordable rapid COVID-19 antigen tests available in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Under the agreement, the World Health Organization and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) will support implementation research aimed at optimizing the use of antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests in multiple LMICs in line with WHO guidance, while the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and UNITAID will launch a multimillion-dollar effort to support the rollout of tests in up to twenty African countries. To that end, the two agencies will engage partners already active in the COVID-19 response in those countries, including the Clinton Health Access Initiative and African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), to advance the African Union's Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT), which was launched in August to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the continent through support for COVID testing, tracing, and treatments.
As part of the effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has executed separate volume guarantee agreements with rapid diagnostic test producers Abbott and SD Biosensor to make a hundred and twenty million antigen rapid diagnostic tests available over six months to low- and middle-income countries at a maximum price of $5 per test. In addition, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis has announced an initial $50 million contribution from its COVID-19 Response Mechanism to a procurement fund that will enable governments to purchase at least ten million units of the new diagnostic tests at the guaranteed price.
"Ensuring equitable access to rapid diagnostic tests is essential for controlling COVID-19 in all countries and to opening up economies across the world. Ensuring an affordable price is a major step forward," said Carolyn Gomes, an alternate board member of the Global Fund. "Tests that can be used at the point of care by frontline workers will greatly facilitate community access to testing. To ensure equity in access for those who need it most, there will need to be much greater support of the ACT-Accelerator and the Diagnostics Pillar in particular. Much more money is needed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable."
(Image credit: World Health Organization)