At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are ‘way of the future,’ says Yukon top doctor

December 16, 2021
At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are 'way of the future,' says Yukon top doctor


The Yukon’s top doctor said the use of rapid tests might be broadened over the coming weeks and months.

Dr. Catherine Elliott, the Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health, made the comments during a COVID-19 news update on Wednesday. Right now, access to rapid tests in the territory to the general public is limited and Elliott said they’re used “when appropriate.”

“I know there’s a lot of public interest in rapid tests and they have a certain role to play in certain circumstances and we’re continually reviewing and looking at the appropriateness of this for general use,” she said.

“We’re continually looking at how can we get results back to people faster so the interruption to their life from getting tested is limited.”

Across Canada, though the country has millions of rapid tests on hand, the accessibility to them varies in each jurisdiction. In Alberta, it was announced Wednesday that over 500,000 rapid antigen test kits will be available at pharmacies starting Friday.

Meanwhile in B.C., advocates are calling on the provincial government to make rapid antigen tests more widely available in the province, as other jurisdictions, such as some Canadian provinces and the U.K., offer free rapid tests for anyone who wants them. Since about mid-October, free rapid test kits have been made available to the public across New Brunswick.

Thousands of antigen tests sent to Yukon

As of Dec. 3, the Yukon has been sent 18,400 rapid antigen tests from the federal government, according to its website. There is no information on how many have been deployed or how many have been used. The N.W.T., as of Dec. 3, has been sent 82,800 of that same type of antigen test as Yukon, and has deployed 8,817 and used 350. 

Elliott said Yukon’s antigen tests are being used in specific situations, like when a large population needs to be scanned for COVID-19 quickly. As well, rapid tests are used in situations when there isn’t access to molecular testing.

She explained that there are different kinds of rapid tests. They include the antigen tests, “which is what most people mean when they talk about rapid tests.” There’s also a molecular rapid test used in the territory – the ID Now tests.  They take a little bit longer to get results from and require “more skilled human resources,” she said.

Meanwhile, “the gold standard test” or the lab tests that confirm results and are also molecular, take even longer to get results and are mostly sent to B.C. where results come back in two to three days, she said.

As well, she said, lab tests help determine what variant the sample is, which is particularly important with omicron on the horizon.

Not as sensitive as other tests, Elliott says

When it comes to the antigen tests, Elliott said while the results are quick, “they’re fairly easy to use,” and  “the result is pretty good,” but they are not as sensitive as molecular tests. That’s why it’s important for Yukoners to get lab tests too, she said.

“We’ve used [rapid antigen tests] in the public health interests of Yukoners and they’ve served us well where they’re needed,” she said.

For the time being, she said the Yukon has a “strong system.”

“People using tests at home is definitely the way of the future and we will get there,” Elliott said. 

The territory is “looking at the role” of rapid testing and the “best place for it” in the territory’s system, she said.

“We are using it currently and we’re looking at the best ways to continue to use it or broaden that use over the coming weeks and months,” she said.

“But it is really important to know it’s not completely straightforward and it’s still important to get a lab-based confirmatory test for those people who are using the rapid test right now.”


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