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What You Need to Know About COVID Tests at Home

Navigating COVID-19 Testing Amid Rising Cases

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With COVID-19 cases resurging in the U.S., Americans are once again turning to at-home tests for virus screening. As the need for testing grows, questions arise about the efficacy of expired test kits that were once distributed for free.

Expiration Dates on At-Home Test Kits

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Many individuals still possess at-home test kits from the government, distributed during the initial phases of the pandemic. However, the presence of expiration dates on these kits prompts concerns about their effectiveness, especially with the resurgence of testing requirements in schools and businesses.

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Availability and Cost of At-Home Tests

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While test kits are now more accessible, they come at a cost of around $25 for a pack of two tests in stores. However, both insured and uninsured individuals can still access free testing through the government’s initiative, offering rapid at-home tests by mail, available for order at COVIDTests.gov.

Determining the Effectiveness of Expired Tests

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The good news is that some COVID-19 test kits past their expiration dates may still be effective. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance on assessing the validity of expiration dates and offers insights into whether tests remain reliable.

FDA’s Role in Monitoring At-Home Tests

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The FDA maintains a list of authorized over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests, indicating whether the printed expiration date on their packaging is valid or if extensions have been granted. This oversight ensures that consumers can make informed decisions about the reliability of their tests.

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FDA-Approved Extensions for Test Shelf Life

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In response to manufacturers testing their kits for accuracy beyond printed expiration dates, the FDA has extended the shelf life of several test brands, some lasting up to two years. For instance, Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 test kits now boast a shelf life of up to 22 months, with potential for further extensions based on ongoing viability assessments.

Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Test Updates

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Abbott, a prominent pharmaceutical firm, has communicated to customers that BinaxNow COVID-19 Antigen Self Test kits may have a longer-than-labeled product expiry date. Current kits have a standardized 22-month expiry date, and the company suggests the possibility of future extensions pending new data on their effectiveness.

Ensuring Validity with Lot Numbers

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To verify if your BinaxNow COVID-19 Antigen Self Test kit has an extended expiration date, you can search for its lot number in the provided list. Abbott emphasizes the importance of checking for any updates as they continually assess the viability of their test kits.

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Extending Viability Beyond Expiration

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The FDA has granted an extension for Acon Laboratories’ Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test, allowing its usage well past the printed expiration date. Tests with an “October 2022” expiration date, for example, remain valid for an additional year until October 2023.

Adhering to Printed Expiration Dates

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Users of Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test are advised to follow the expiration date printed on the packaging. The FDA emphasizes that expired tests cannot be trusted, as COVID-19 tests and their components may degrade over time, potentially leading to inaccurate or invalid results.

Importance of Reliable Testing

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Expired COVID-19 test kits may deliver unreliable results due to the degradation of components over time. The FDA emphasizes the critical need for accurate testing, especially as the pandemic continues to evolve.

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Balancing Access and Reliability

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As the demand for at-home testing rises, individuals must balance the accessibility of test kits with the reliability of results. Staying informed about FDA-approved extensions and expiration dates ensures that individuals can make informed decisions about the effectiveness of their COVID-19 test kits.

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