Local health expert weighs in, gives advice on at-home COVID-19 test kits

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With COVID-19 tests soon available at local pharmacies, KTSM 9 News spoke with health experts to find out if the products are worth the price.

There are three over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that will be available at stores like CVS. Officials with CVS say each test is rolling out at different intervals.

Local health officials say it’s important to do your research on what test you’re getting.

“Generally speaking, there are two types of tests that you can get. One of them is to detect a presence of any material that identifies the virus. Those are the tests that most people are doing and they are antigen and PCR tests,” said Dr. Armando Meza, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

The three at-home COVID-19 tests include Ellume, the Abbott BinaxNOW Antigen Self Test, and the Pixel by Labcorp. All tests received emergency use authorization approval for effectiveness, and range from as low as $24 to $120 – the Pixel by Labcorp being the most expensive.

Dr. Meza says it’s critical to make sure consumers test their samples properly, “The numbers can be misleading and unfortunately the test doesn’t know who’s getting tested. That means that you can have a test that is very sensitive and very specific, but if you do it in the wrong sample or in the wrong manner of collecting the sample, even that test will come back negative.”

Some El Pasoans told KTSM 9 News they’d rather stick to getting tested for free at various testing site locations, “As a UTEP student I’ve had to not really deal with lines. So it’s been fast, it’s been easy, and results were provided in a couple of days so I’ve liked testing at the free sites, and I’ll continue to do so,” said Samuel Hall.

If considering the over-the-counter COVID-19 test, it’s important for consumers to remember the test results are not official diagnoses.

“So getting tested is good, it’s possible and if you want to have a testing kit at home it’s fine. But by no means you should be making a complete interpretation of a medical diagnosis just based on that test,” Dr. Meza explained, “I think it’s critical that people and the consumer understand that you’re still going to need an evaluation by a medical care provider and appropriate management of your condition.”

Insurance does not cover the three at-home COVID-19 tests.

This week, officials with CVS say we can start to see the Abbott BinaxNOW test in select locations at CVS, and on the pharmacy’s website.

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