Rapid test kits available soon at some Alberta pharmacies, AHS clinics

More than 500,000 kits will be made available on a first-come-first-serve basis beginning Friday

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Albertans will soon be able to get a free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kit from hundreds of pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and 140 AHS clinics in smaller communities provincewide.


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In a Wednesday morning update, Premier Jason Kenney said more than 500,000 kits will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning Friday, with each kit including five tests. A list of AHS sites where the tests will be available is on the province’s rapid testing web page , and the approximately 600 participating pharmacies are expected to be revealed Friday.

“This is especially welcome at this time of year, as we know more Albertans will be mixing and mingling throughout the Christmas season and often travelling for example from cities to hometowns,” said Kenney.

“Expanded rapid testing adds to our current public health measures and our ongoing work to ensure that Albertans are protected by the vaccine. But it does not replace either of these.”


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Albertans can pick up one box of five tests once every two weeks. The kits are meant to be used for non-symptomatic testing — those with symptoms of COVID-19 should still schedule a PCR test through AHS. People who get a positive result from a rapid test should isolate and schedule a PCR test.

“The sooner Albertans identify they have COVID-19, particularly when they don’t have symptoms, the sooner they can isolate and reduce the risk they’ll pass the virus on to others,” said Health Minister Jason Copping.

The province is also making more rapid tests available in elementary schools. All schools with at least two COVID-19 cases will now get a supply of tests. Previously, only schools that had a declared outbreak of 10-plus individuals would get them.


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Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room physician in Edmonton, is concerned some will see rapid tests as a “silver bullet.” She warned Albertans not to let accessible and easy testing methods replace common sense, especially with the limitations posed by rapid tests.

“There can be a significant number of false negatives, especially when you’re in the asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic period,” Mithani said.

“The rapid tests, they are much more accurate when someone is symptomatic, and that’s not the situation that people are going to use these tests in over the holidays.”


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People are recommended to take two tests a week, 72 hours apart, with the fifth being a spare in case of an invalid result. Officials reminded Albertans the tests are meant as a personal screening tool and regular testing is advised as the tests are less sensitive than PCR tests.

“The greatest benefit is for those who know that there are close contacts have a case,” said Copping.

“An initial negative test does not necessarily mean you’re negative for COVID-19. You must not use rapid test results as a guarantee that you’re COVID-free or as a licence to ignore public health rules. Rapid tests are a complement to our current measures, not a replacement. ”

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Calgary pharmacist Pratik Bhadra said he’s still awaiting his first shipment of the test kits at Madigan Pharmacy. He said people need to educate themselves on how to use the tests and perform them properly to ensure they get the most accurate result possible. Still, he’s worried about the possibility of user error.

“You’re giving something to people; they don’t know how to use it,” said Bhadra.

“Efficacy of the test would be in question because people are not trained to collect the samples, people are not trained to do these things. This is something that an expert can do and should be left to the experts.”

Kenney said the government is concerned that Albertans will run through the supply quickly, calling on the federal government to provide more test kits and approve other easy-to-use testing methods for public use. He said Europe has authorized the use of more than 100 different tests, while Canada has only approved a handful.

Rapid tests can be used personally by people aged 14 and up, and children between two and 13 if performed by an adult. The tests will not be accepted under Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program, and unvaccinated people will still need to obtain proof of a negative test result.

Instructional videos and other resources are available at .

Twitter:     @michaelrdrguez



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