Eighty-six percent of Americans say they would test themselves using at-home rapid coronavirus tests, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the COVID Collaborative, a coalition of experts on the pandemic.
Dr. Michael Mina, a professor of epidemiology at the T.H. Chan School who has been an outspoken advocate of the testing, said in a statement that “rapid antigen tests detect individuals when they are most contagious. We can dramatically reduce the number of cases in the U.S. if there is a strategic deployment of rapid antigen tests so that infectious individuals know their status and can isolate or take behavioral precautions before spreading to others.”
Dr. Steven Phillips, vice president of science and strategy at the COVID Collaborative, said in the statement from the group, “We learned that people are willing and eager to test themselves regularly at-home or upon entrance to public venues to keep their loved ones safe, stop the spread of COVID-19 and reopen America safely.”
Mina said at a news briefing Wednesday that such tests will “support” the vaccination campaign that is currently underway across the United States.
He said that despite vaccinations, “the economy is going to continue being held up as a result of this pandemic” and the testing would be a “way to accelerate reopening the economy.”
“I think we’re going to be on edge as a society for quite some time,” he said. “These tests can make everything safer.”
“We need backstops,” he said. “We can’t go through another year of this.”
Mina said the US Food and Drug Administration has been “sitting on” applications for approval of the tests. He has said that the tests are as simple to take as at-home pregnancy tests.
Audra Harrison, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail, “The FDA is committed to helping ensure the public has access to a wide variety of test options for COVID-19.”
She said that since the start of the pandemic “we have authorized over 300 tests and collection kits, including more than 3 tests/collection kits that allow for at-home use as well as 14 antigen tests. The FDA will continue to support innovation in testing and provide flexibility to test developers with the goal of increasing the availability of accurate and reliable tests for all Americans.”
Mina previously has expressed reservations about some of the at-home tests that the FDA has approved, saying they should be simpler and cheaper.
The poll found that the percentage of people willing to test regularly at home would decline based on how expensive the tests are, from 79 percent at $1, to 63 percent at $5, to 33 percent at $25.
It also found that 85 percent of Americans are in favor of government funding of the test production/distribution, including 94 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans.
“The pandemic has inflicted the worst economic crisis on the United States since the Great Depression, but we can’t get the economy back on track without first controlling the virus,” James Stock, a Harvard economics professor and former member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2013-2014, said in the statement.
“Frequent, rapid testing through at-home tests and entrance screening will make schools, workplaces and travel safer, bring back jobs and revenue and jump-start the economic recovery,” he said.
The nationwide survey of 1,569 adults was conducted Jan. 12 to Jan. 18 by Hart Research.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.