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Oct. 23, 2021 | Saturday
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NOTL pharmacy now using COVID rapid testing system
Pharmacist Sean Simpson prepares a rapid COVID-19 test. (Richard Harley)

Not covered by OHIP, $30 swab test is for people with no symptoms

 

A kinder, gentler and quicker type of COVID-19 test is now available to Niagara-on-the-Lake residents. 

And pharmacist Sean Simpson is hopeful that his stores' vaccine supply will soon be replenished with Moderna and Pfizer doses after the province paused giving out any more AstraZeneca first-dose vaccines.

In the meantime, he urges everyone to get a shot, any shot.

"What's most important is that the first vaccine that people can access is likely the best. So, even though cases are going down, we still want to approach vaccine vaccination with a sense of urgency," he said in an interview.

"The sooner we all get vaccinated and are afforded that protection, the sooner we'll all be able to get back to our normal lives or whatever our normal lives are going to look like."

As of this week, Simpson's two locations in NOTL have been using the new COVID rapid-test system, a "more comfortable," less invasive nasal swab test than the standard PCR test that has been in use for months.

The rapid tests, rolled out to long-term care homes earlier this year as infections and deaths soared, have been held back by the provincial government since last fall.

Simpson is happy to see them finally be widely available.

The tests are not covered by OHIP and cost $30. They are only for people showing no symptoms, who haven't been out of the country and not been exposed to anyone with COVID, said Simpson. 

While a PCR test is considered 99.9 per cent reliable, the rapid tests – with results within 15 minutes – are 99 per cent accurate, he said. 

Simpson's has conducted rapid tests for a few employees of NOTL businesses and expects to do more of that type of screening.

In addition, the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, through a program with the Ontario Chamber and federal and provincial governments, will soon roll out free rapid tests for small- and medium-sized businesses. 

Simpson also sees the possibility of using rapid testing in schools, sports, essential workplaces and elsewhere to quickly screen people. 

"I haven't seen the economic analysis but if you detect one asymptomatic case potentially spreading things around, and you can reduce the number of cases, then that may reduce hospitalizations, which may reduce lockdowns" – and for a relatively minor inconvenience most people can carry on their lives without severe limitations.

In the meantime, if pharmacies like his do get more vaccines, the hundreds of people on every store's waiting list will be able to receive Moderna or Pfizer.

While the province expects more than 250,000 shots of AstraZeneca to arrive next week, those likely will be held for people's second doses.

It is unclear yet if people who already received one shot of AstraZeneca will be able to receive one of the other vaccines for their second dose. 

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