OTTAWA | The COVID-19 rapid screening test that will be deployed massively in the United States is not even being evaluated at Health Canada although it has been approved south of the border since August.
“When we talk about a saliva test, we are not in a position to speed up the process. Everything is complicated, everything is long at the level of Health Canada, ”protested Tuesday the Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced the massive deployment of 150 million BinaxNow rapid tests from U.S. company Abbott, capable of delivering results in just minutes.
But Health Canada has not even received a request for an evaluation of this screening tool, which is therefore not ready to hit our shelves.
The ministry says it is proactive with manufacturers to encourage them to apply for approval here. But he admits that he only released this week the minimum diagnostic accuracy that an antigen test must have to be approved domestically. Key data for manufacturers.
Eventually, antigen testing could be done as easily as a pregnancy test. They therefore have the potential to radically change the course of the war against the virus.
Too little too late
“It is very positive that Health Canada is signaling that it is open to evaluating antigen tests, but the problem is that all countries want it now, so it will be more difficult to buy it,” warns David Juncker, Department of Medical Engineering, McGill University.
“It's a little too little too late,” he breathes.
The researcher, who deplores the conservatism of our legislators when it comes to medical innovation, indicates that for months, Health Canada sent “discouraging signals” to the manufacturers of the antigen tests who therefore turned to more welcoming markets, like the United States, says Dr Juncker.
The opposition calls on the Prime Minister to intervene to speed up the process for approving COVID-19 screening tools.
But Justin Trudeau believes that “it would not be correct for politicians to put pressure to arrive at a scientific decision faster.”
Behind the scenes, it is reported that Health Canada has been scalded by the failure of the Spartan Bioscience rapid test and wants to avoid a similar fiasco. This Ottawa-made test was conditionally approved at the very start of the pandemic before finally being rejected in May because it proved to be far less effective than anticipated.
Meanwhile, Canadians have to queue for several hours to get tested for COVID-19, and the wait time for results is growing day by day as testing labs are overwhelmed. .
Ottawa announced yesterday that it has booked 7.9 million ID NOW rapid tests from Abbott Company. However, we will have to wait for Health Canada to approve this product. Approved in the United States for months, it was not submitted to Health Canada for evaluation until late summer.
– With the collaboration of Émilie Bergeron, Agence QMI