White House awards $230M for over-the-counter, rapid COVID-19 tests

The Biden administration is funding the mass production of a rapid, over-the-counter COVID-19 test, White House officials announced Monday.

Andy Slavitt, White House COVID-19 adviser, said the administration will provide nearly $232 million to an Australian company called Ellume, which received authorization for the test in December.

The company was part of the National Institutes of Health’s RADx initiative to spur test development, and received $30 million from the program.

“Thanks to this contract, they’ll be able to scale their production to manufacture more than 19 million test kits per month by the end of this year,” Slavitt told reporters.

Significance: It’s not likely you’ll see these tests on the shelves at CVS tomorrow, but the move is a significant step forward in expanding the reach of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests, something experts have been advocating for months.

Timing: As part of the agreement, the U.S. will fund an American manufacturing facility. Ellume will be able to ship 100,000 kits a month from the Australian facility from February to July, until the expected date the U.S. facility is built. At full capacity, the U.S facility will be able to produce up to 19 million tests per month. The new contract will guarantee the U.S. 8.5 million kits, but not until the end of the year.

Pricing barrier: The test costs $30 each, which may seem inexpensive compared to current options, but the appeal of a rapid, at-home test is that it can be used multiple times a week to help people to return to work and school.