A divisive disease
One of the hallmarks of the COVID 19 pandemic is its ability to divide and discriminate on the grounds of age, gender, race and socio-economic background. Every aspect of the disease’s impact has varied across different social groups. For instance, the stark difference in mortality rates between white ethnic groups and BAME groups in the UK has been widely reported. Other statistics show that whilst women have disproportionately been affected by the negative side-effects of lockdown, men are around twice as likely as women to die from the disease itself.
Recently, TFA was featured in a Guardian article which spoke about the “haves” and the “have-nots” of coronavirus testing. Our co-founder, Kelly Klifa, spoke about the inequality between those who can afford expensive private testing – big corporations like the Premier League – and those who cannot. Indeed for many employers considering getting their workforce COVID tested, cost is the biggest concern.
It is for this reason that Testing For All is dedicated to keeping COVID 19 tests as cheap as possible. We believe that COVID tests should always be affordable and accessible for those that need them. Our tests are already amongst the most affordable on the market and we only expect this price to continue to be driven down as testing evolves and manufacturing is optimised. In this way we hope to do our bit to try to dissolve the social divides that the pandemic has accentuated.
The road ahead
In this vein, there are many developments to be excited about that are helping pave the way for more equal and accessible protection from COVID 19. Whilst the race to secure the big-ticket item – a safe and effective vaccine – is doubtlessly the most high-profile, scientists and researchers around the world have been busy researching multiple kinds of treatments and tests too. It was recently discovered that dexamethasone – a cheap and widely available low-dosage steroid treatment already used in the NHS to treat asthma and allergies – could reduce the death rate of those most ill with COVID 19 by a third. This development was rightly hailed as a breakthrough.
In the field of testing too, there are noteworthy projects which warrant a sense of optimism. One such area of research is PCR pooling. PCR pooling is a new method of antigen testing, which researchers at the COVID 19 Volunteer Testing Network hope will expand current screening capacities and be better able to detect the virus in the community, as well as in close integral groups like factory shifts and hospital departments. Another exciting project is underway with Quidel. Their next generation diagnostic machine, Sofia, will be able to process antigen tests at only £20-30 per test.
These developments are some of the many promising, forward-thinking and research-led projects which will hopefully allow us to realise the goal of accessible and affordable treatments and test for COVID 19. Diagnostics is a rapidly evolving field, and one where there is always room for optimism and hope.