Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced that Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced that rapid antigen at-home testing has been approved, and will be available for individuals from November 1.
Making at-home tests available will allow people to conduct Covid-19 tests from the comfort of their own homes. However, it is not yet known how this will be applied in practice, nor how the states will react.
Hunt has said that this roll-out of rapid tests is subject to individual tests being approved as “safe and effective”. Hunt also said that this was the next step in Australia’s Covid-19 recovery, and was “an important additional protection” for all Australians in the fight against Covid-19.
Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health Services, Paul Griffin has said that this is a step in the right direction, however, he noted that “Rapid antigen testing will not replace the use of these laboratory-based PCR tests, but I see it as something that could be used in finite circumstances, in a complementary fashion. While clearly the shorter turnaround time and ability to perform at home or in your workplace are useful benefits, rapid antigen tests do not have the same level of accuracy as PCR based testing.”
Rapid antigen tests are currently being used in a number of industries, including aged care and quarantine facilities.
Professor Adrian Estermann, the Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of South Australia, has explained the difference between regular testing and rapid testing:
“PCR tests work by looking for fragments of the virus in the swab sample. They require complicated analytic equipment only found in pathology laboratories and need expert lab technicians to run the equipment. Each PCR test takes about six hours to run, so it is not surprising that tests are returned usually after 24 hours.”
“Rapid antigen tests are almost the opposite. They work by looking for proteins called antigens on the surface of the virus. They come in a test kit, a bit like the ones used for pregnancy, have results available in about 15 minutes, and are inexpensive.”
— Simon Love (@SimoLove) September 28, 2021
TGA is the governing agency for all medicines and therapeutic regulations in Australia. This means they are also responsible for the approval process of vaccinations, including the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines now being given to willing Australians.
Earlier this month, Hunt announced 28 different types of rapid antigen tests had been approved. Today’s announcement follows from this, announcing the date on which individuals can expect these tests to become available.