Rapid antigen test kit delivery to Alberta schools on pace, pharmacies told to wait
Rapid tests for use at home continue to be in scarce in Alberta but the province says the antigen test kits are meeting delivery schedules for schools, while pharmacies are waiting longer amid supply shortages.
Numerous Calgary pharmacies have signs posted near entrances indicating they are out of the kits provided by the province at no charge.
"A lot of people are looking for these tests we are still getting a lot of phone calls and a lot of emails requesting them," said Rahim Rajan who runs Capsule Pharmacy in downtown Calgary.
He ordered more free rapid antigen test kits provided by the province earlier in January and was told by the supplier the order was delayed with no update for delivery.
"There's an air of frustration right now because the delays have been prolonged unfortunately and people are looking to see if their symptoms are COVID-related or not," said Rajan.
He said anyone with symptoms without a means to test should assume it's COVID-19 and isolate for the required period of time and if symptoms worsen its best to call 8-1-1 or a family doctor for further guidance.
Alberta Health told CTV news that pharmacies will be waiting for additional supply until at least next week, and even then some locations may be limited until further supply allows.
Yet the province contends that the delivery schedule for kits promised to Alberta schools is arriving successfully on time as per the revised schedule.
Another 3.5 million tests are expected to arrive by the end of this week as well as another 1.8 million tests that are still being determined.
Regarding tests kits for the general public the health minister said the federal government is the one responsible for the hold up but delays are also expected for the 10 million privately procured tests.
"There's challenges in regards to supply chains as a result. Some of those didn't come out as early in January but we have far more tests that are coming out will be coming out towards the end of this month," said health minister Jason Copping during the provincial pandemic briefing on Tuesday.
The province said rapid tests are being provided based on priority and the kits that are being ordered now are going to be sent to higher risk settings in healthcare centres, hospitals, long-term care centres and First Nations communities.
Some doctors said that the shift in focus away from detecting cases accurately coupled with the short supply of at home rapid tests is leading many Albertans to feel as though they are flying blind.
"This is the symptoms of a bigger problem about poor public health management, we're here because we have let this spiral out of control," said Dr. Darren Markland, an Edmonton-based critical care physician and nephrologist.
Alberta's union representing public sector workers says rapid tests are also hard to come by for the unvaccinated employees participating in a rapid testing, even for those who work from home.
"They're not going into a worksite. They're not going into an office, they're working from home, and they have zero contact with the public. It is a little bit unreasonable to be asking them to pay all this money (for a rapid antigen test at a pharmacy) when it is the employer's (the government of Alberta's) policy and mandate," said Susan Slade, vice president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
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