NEW YORK – The White House COVID-19 Response Team announced on Wednesday that the Biden administration will invest an additional $1 billion to expand access to SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen tests.
The investment will be used to purchase an additional 180 million rapid tests over the course of the next year, response team coordinator Jeff Zients said at a press conference, adding tens of millions of additional rapid tests will be coming to the market over the next month.
"We’ll continue to pull every lever as we have throughout the pandemic response on testing to expand manufacturing production of tests in order to make tests even more widely available and drive down the cost per test," he said.
With the added investment, the number of rapid antigen tests available per month will quadruple by December, Zients said, with approximately 200 million rapid tests per month becoming available starting that month. He declined to specify which companies will receive the procurement contracts.
Part of the increase in testing capacity, however, will come from Acon Laboratories, which received Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for its at-home SARS-CoV-2 test on Monday.
The company said that by the end of this year, it plans to produce more than 100 million tests per month, with production rising to 200 million per month by February 2022. Zients said the test is expected to retail for less than $10.
In addition, Zients said the federal government received commitments from Quidel and OraSure Technologies to further expand their manufacturing to speed up production of rapid tests.
Last month, the US Department of Defense announced procurement contracts for both companies — OraSure received $205.2 million to deliver 20.6 million test kits, while Quidel received $284.2 million to deliver 25.6 million tests.
OraSure also announced on Monday an additional contract from the DoD for $109 million to support manufacturing scale-up for its rapid antigen tests.
During the response team briefing, Zients said the administration will also expand access to free SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen testing, adding 10,000 pharmacies to the US Department of Health and Human Services' free testing program.
The federal government will continue to distribute some of the rapid antigen tests to community health centers and food pantries, Zients said.
Wednesday's announcement comes after the White House said in September that it would invest $2 billion in procurement contracts to expand rapid antigen test manufacturing. That investment will be used to procure 280 million rapid tests from multiple manufacturers.