Rapid Antigen Test

Rapid antigen tests will soon be free for millions of Australians — who’s eligible? When do you need a PCR test?

Source : ABC News
A pink sign with a printed warning that says 'sold out of covid rapid test kits'

National cabinet has agreed to extend the availability of free rapid antigen tests to some Australians, but supply shortages remain a serious issue across the country.

Starting in the next two weeks, concession card holders will join close contacts on the list of people who can get their hands on free RATs.

But the rules differ between the two groups, and others will still have to pay for the tests, which remain hard to come by on pharmacy shelves.

Who can get a free rapid antigen test?

There are two main groups of people who can access rapid antigen tests for free:

  • Concession card holders
  • People required to get a test, either because they are a close contact or they are symptomatic and their testing centre gives them a RAT rather than a PCR swab

However the two groups access their free tests under different rules.

People line up against a building for COVID testing
National cabinet agreed to changes in the hope of easing testing queues.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Under the new scheme, concession card holders will be able to access up to 10 free RATs over the course of three months, at a maximum of five in a single month.

The tests will be free for people who hold a:

  • Pension concession card
  • Commonwealth seniors healthcare card
  • DVA gold, white or orange card
  • Health care card
  • Low income card

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that covered 6.6 million Australians.

The free tests will be available at pharmacies in the next fortnight.

“You would go along to the chemist, they will give you one and then they will take your details,” Mr Morrison said.

“They will obviously get your concession card details … and there will be a rebate system that works back to the pharmacy.”

 

Play Video. Duration: 4 minutes 49 seconds
Scott Morrison announces rapid antigen tests will be free for some Australians.

If you’re a close contact, you are required to get a rapid antigen test on day 6 of your isolation, and you can receive it at a testing centre. Similarly, if you are symptomatic and attend a testing centre, you may be given a RAT for free.

People who are close contacts or symptomatic are being encouraged not to go to chemists or pharmacies.

“If you are symptomatic and a close contact, you can go to the testing centre as many times as you need to. All of those tests are free,” Mr Morrison said yesterday.

Who has to pay for a rapid antigen test?

Pretty much everyone else — that is to say people who don’t hold a concession card, don’t have symptoms and aren’t close contacts.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese is continuing to call for the tests to be made free for everybody .

 

Play Video. Duration: 3 minutes 36 seconds
How to speak to your kids about their COVID-19 vaccination

“The easiest and simplest way is to make free tests available for all just like PCR tests are available and free,” he said.

Rapid tests remain scarce across much of Australia, and there have been many anecdotal reports of retailers taking advantage of the short supply by price gouging.

After yesterday’s national cabinet meeting, the federal government strengthened rules against rapid test price gouging.

It means retailers who sell the tests at higher than a 20 per cent mark-up will face hefty fines and the threat of imprisonment.

Who needs a PCR test?

National cabinet agreed yesterday to change a rule that people who test positive on a RAT follow it up with a PCR test.

A positive RAT is now considered proof of infection, meaning people who test positive on a RAT no longer require a PCR test.

Other testing requirements for truckies and international arrivals were also eased.

But the health advice remains that if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should visit a testing centre.

Sinopharm Vaccine

Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine: Should you worry about the side effects?

Source : Medical News Today

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, BBIBP-CorV, which the Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products (BBIBP) developed, is the first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine that the World Health Organization (WHO) has authorized for emergency use. This Snapshot feature discusses some of the common side effects that have occurred in clinical trials and the controversies surrounding the safety of the vaccine.

Sinopharm Vaccine

The BBIBP in China has developed the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine BBIBP-CorV. Of the COVID-19 vaccines that Chinese companies have produced, BBIBP-CorV is the first one that the WHO has authorizedTrusted Source for use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The WHO issued its emergency use listing for the Sinopharm vaccine on May 7, 2021, some 4 months after China’s National Medical Products Administration authorized it on December 31, 2020. A further 42 countries, including Hungary, Venezuela, and Sri Lanka, have approved the vaccine. However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet reviewed it for use in the European Union.

Sinopharm and the BBIBP opted to use a well-established technology to develop their COVID-19 vaccine. The two-dose vaccine incorporates inactivated virus to stimulate an immune response.

The Sinopharm vaccine contains SARS-CoV-2 that has undergone treatment with a chemical called beta-propiolactone. This chemical binds to the virus’s genetic material and stops it from replicating and causing COVID-19. The vaccine also contains an adjuvant in the form of aluminum hydroxide. Adjuvants help strengthen the body’s immune response to vaccines.

When an individual receives the vaccine, their body’s immune system identifies the inactivated virus as foreign and makes antibodies against it. If the vaccinated person subsequently comes into contact with SARS-CoV-2, their immune system launches an immune response against it.

The WHO recommends the Sinopharm vaccine for people aged 18 years and older, with a gap of 3–4 weeks between the two doses. The global health agency estimates overall vaccine efficacy to be about 78%, although it notes that trial data are lacking for adults over the age of 60 years.

Common side effects

Published data to support Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine are lacking. Data from a small phase 1/2 trial that involved about 600 volunteers appeared in The Lancet Infectious DiseasesTrusted Source in October 2020. The authors of the paper reported that the vaccine was safe and well-tolerated by trial participants.

The most commonly reported side effects in this trial were fever and pain at the injection site.

The WHO reviewed safety data from three clinical trials, which included data for 16,671 participants who received the Sinopharm vaccine. Most of these data relate to men aged 18–59 years.

Based on these data, the most common side effects were:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • injection site reactions

These side effects are similar to those of other authorized vaccines against COVID-19, and most were mild to moderate.

Serious side effects

The WHO identified two serious adverse events that were possibly linked to the vaccine — serious nausea and a rare neurological disorder known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. There was also one diagnosis of thrombus (blood clot) in the vaccine group.

The WHO also considered post-authorization data in the form of safety data gathered during China’s rollout of the vaccine. Among the 5.9 million people who had received the vaccine in China by December 30, 2020, there were 1,453 reported adverse events.

These side effects included local reactions of redness and swelling at the vaccination site. There were also 202 cases of fever, including 86 classed as severe. Although there were 11 reported cases of facial nerve symptoms, assessors concluded that these were unrelated to the vaccine.

Safety in older adults

Safety data from 1.1 million Sinopharm vaccine doses that older adults — aged 65 years and over — received in China list the most common side effects as dizziness, headaches, fatigue, nausea, fever, vomiting, and allergic dermatitis. There were no reported serious adverse events for this age group. However, the WHO highlights a gap in BBIBP-CorV’s evidence base for older adults.

Lack of transparency

There is still some controversy surrounding the vaccine, which a lack of detailed safety and efficacy data and the early rollout of the vaccine have fueled.

A January 2021 news article reported that Shanghai-based vaccine expert Tao Lina had uploaded a digital version of the vaccine’s manual to the web.

The manual listed the vaccine’s 73 local and systemic side effects, leading Tao to describe the vaccine as the “most unsafe vaccine in the world.” However, the number of side effects that the manual lists is not, in itself, an indication of the vaccine’s safety.

Taiwan News reported that censors took Tao’s post down in early January and that 2 days later, Tao retracted his criticism, saying that it was a joke.

Some individuals have also aired concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy. In April 2021, a Chinese official called Gao Fu said that the country’s COVID-19 vaccines “do not achieve very high protection rates.” Gao, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, later claimed that people had misinterpreted his comments.

WHO validation

The world’s major drug regulators (the EMA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have not reviewed Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine. However, WHO validation, through its emergency use listing, will provide reassurance to countries seeking to supplement their vaccine rollout efforts.

Dr. Mariângela Simão, the WHO assistant-director general for access to health products, said that the addition of the vaccine had “the potential to rapidly accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk.”

WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the WHO’s validation would give countries “confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval.”