Covid self-test kits eventually available in pharmacies! Health Minister Olivier Véran announced self-test kits - promised for a while now - will be available starting April 12 only in pharmacies: "Starting April 12, pharmacies can sell self-test kits to whoever wants to buy some", he explained this Friday April 2 to our peers from Brut.
Despite the minister's statements, pharmacists are worried: "We won't be ready tomorrow [Monday April 12] at 8 a.m.", Union des syndicats de pharmaciens d'officine (USPO) chairman Gilles Bonnefond told France Info this April 11.
"We lack a few elements. We hope to find this [Sunday] morning details in Journal Officiel about prices and conditions. [We would have wanted to] see which tests were approved and said reliable by the Medicines Agency. There are six of them today, including two French, as many manufacturers propose tests that are not approved", Bonnefond adds that "pharmacists are cautious, they do not want to provide tests that are not reliable".
While waiting for clear instructions, the USPO has decided they will sell self-test kits "for 6 euros, a price supervised as much as possible. But this price might eventually decrease in May".
Where to find self-test kits?
Yet, tests are only to be available in pharmacies and not in supermarkets as announced a few weeks ago: "it is necessary a health professional is here to sell the kits and explain how they work", Olivier Véran also said.
Marketing took quite a while... This Friday April 2, in the morning, epidemiologist Martin Blachier explained on Europe 1 the ministry was blocking the marketing of these very kits, Véran speaking of minor reliability. A statement that may have encouraged him to do the one he did to our peers from Brut.
This Wednesday March 17, 2021, Carrefour announced the first self-test kits would be available on sale starting this weekend. You would have been able to help yourselves in personal care product aisles of the stores. And to enable as many people as possible to get one, Carrefour said they have order a million kits.
Furthermore, the Haute Autorité de Santé announced this Tuesday March 16, saying they gave the green light for marketing this general public test tool, consisting in nose swab tests. Self-test kits can be used by asymptomatic people starting 15 years of age.
An announcement, following France Health Director General Jérôme Salomon's who was invited on BFMTV this Sunday March 14, 2021 and spoke about this very marketing authorization. The controversial professor deciphered the country’s health situation, especially thinking that “we are walking on a crest line, the situation is complex, tense, and tends to deteriorate in Île-de-France”.
According to news shared by BFMTV, these self-test kists will be sold in boxes of 20 tests for €40, namely €2 apiece. Then, they will be available in boxes of five for €15, namely €3 apiece.
Yet, the Health General Management told our France Info peers on March 20, that "first and before another deployment, experimentation will be conducted in March". Furthermore, the sale of these self-test kits will be supervised by health professionals and provided first "to people testing less than others, or who need to be tested regularly", such as homeless people and even students.
This Thursday March 25, le Parisien announces more news about the marketing of these self-test kits. According to the Health General Management, these test will eventually be soon authorized to be sold in pharmacies, by three to four weeks. Yet, they will never be available over-the-counter in supermarkets. "They are not allowed to be sold excluding pharmacies", the DGS told Le Parisien.
Several factors can explain the decision. The first concert of the health authorities involve bad use of the tests. Interviewed by Le Parisien, Union des Syndicats de Pharmaciens d'Officine chairman Gilles Bonnefond explains "one shall go up to 4cm into one's nose, we cannot be sure people will do it right, some could even injure themselves". Last weekend, Olivier Véran even admitted: "I tried it and it is not as simple as one thinks".
Then comes the issue of a positive result. If these autotests show the presence of the virus in the tested case, a PCR test shall be taken to confirm the result. Moreover, it becomes difficult to track contact cases. Self-isolation and sharing data are subject to the sole will of the sick who can decide whether they will be cautious or not.
Last but not least, before approving marketing issance of these devices, the minister must decide in a decree if these self-test kits will be reimbursed by the social security system or not. Classic test kits, free of charge in pharmacies and specialized centers will be favored by the public if self-test kits are not reimbursed.
A self-test kit, how does it work?
What are these self-test kits the Health Director General has spoken about? These are quick antigenic tests to make at home. They are developed by the Roche laboratories. These tests are said to deliver results in 15 minutes only. These tests are made with a swab collecting sample in one’s nose.
But do not panic: you do not have to push the swab up to the very back of your nose. Unlike tests performed by professionals, these self-tests collect samples at the surface of the nose (3-4cm deep). Roche Diagnostics France head of marketing Michel Guyon explained to Sud-Ouest the swab then has to be “placed in a tube with the extraction buffer. An antigenic/antibody reaction occurs if the virus is found in the patient’s swab and then makes a colored line appear, showing positive result”. The reading of the test looks like the same process as for a pregnancy test.
The ease of use of these self-tests and their soon availability is expected to widen testing access to many people then, and ideally, enable to curb the spread of the virus.