Today, President Trump declared a plan to dispense 150 million rapid coronavirus tests procured by the federal government to states, tribes, and other jurisdictions in the next few months. Experts were happy with this announcement because the country continues to struggle with testing. As they point out, the current daily test numbers (850,000) cited by federal officials is nowhere near what it needs to be to limit viral spread.
Nevertheless, some experts point out though that 150 million is not a lot. Per Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “150 million tests is really a very small drop in the bucket, considering how these tests are envisioned to be used.” To have an accurate understanding of the virus’ prevalence and keep it in check, we should be doing millions of tests per day.
Rapid tests don’t require being processed at a lab, which helps to decrease turn around time from the test being completed to receiving a result. The rapid tests that are being shipped are only approved to be used in people with symptoms of COVID-19. They must be administered by or in the presence of a trained healthcare professional within the first seven days of when a person starts to feel sick. The longer a person waits to be tested, the less reliable the result is. Regarding the tests’ effectiveness at detecting the virus in those that are asymptomatic, not much is known.
On the vaccine development front, a planned later-stage trial for the vaccine from Inovio Pharmaceuticals was placed on hold when regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised questions. The company didn’t provide details on what generated the questions but did say that it included the delivery device used to administer the shot and not with adverse events from the continuing early-stage trial, which currently there aren’t any. Inovio officials said that it plans to respond in October. Then, the FDA has 30 days to inform the company whether they can proceed with the trial.
Inovio’s vaccine uses synthetic DNA that codes for antibodies to activate an immune response. In June, the company stated the vaccine showed promising preliminary results in a small number of patients. It’s key to note that no DNA-based vaccine has ever been brought to market, so, if approved, theirs would be the first.