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Pharmacists union calls for making rapid antigen tests available to public

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Feb 01,2022 - Last updated at Feb 03,2022

According to the Jordanian Pharmacists Union, rapid antigen tests are 'very reliable', give fast results and are affordable to the majority of Jordanians (Photo courtesy of Salah Qendeel)

AMMAN — The Jordanian Pharmacists Union has urged the government to allow pharmacies to perform rapid antigen tests (RAT) for potential COVID-19 infections. 

The union said it advocates using RATs because they are “very reliable”, give fast results and are affordable to the majority of Jordanians. 

“We need scalable testing options with fast results,” Derar Bala’awi, Associate Clinical Professor Consultant Pharmacotherapist-Infectious Diseases, told The Jordan Times.

Bala’awi said now that businesses have resumed work and students have returned to in-person education, infections need to be quickly identified to prevent further spread. 

“Therefore, we encourage the use of high-end RATs”, Bala’awi said.

Bala’awi added that currently there are many international medical equipment companies manufacturing RATs but if the government intends to allow the use of RATs, they have to monitor the importing process in order to make sure that only the most accurate kits are available at pharmacies. 

“Rapid antigen tests can provide a negative or positive result in about 15 minutes, and the cost of running the test will not exceed JD8 if offered at pharmacies,” Salah Qendeel, secretary general at the Jordanian Pharmacist's Union, told The Jordan Times. 

Qendeel added that while RATs are widely available in the Kingdom, pharmacies are not allowed to sell or offer them to the public, although private sector companies and medical equipment firms have RAT kits available for testing employees. 

Bala’awi said rapid antigen tests are very specific for the coronavirus. However, they are not as sensitive as other tests, like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, so there is a higher chance of a false negative result.

Bala’awi and Qendeel both agreed that standard testing resources can get backlogged and results can be significantly delayed, which can be a problem for health providers treating patients and for people proactively self-isolating to avoid exposing others to the virus; this is where rapid diagnostic testing can help fill in some of these gaps to get results back fast.

Due to the wide spread of the Omicron variant, PCR test results are taking days instead of hours due to the high demand, according to Bala’awi, who added that potentially infected people will go out and socialise not knowing they are infected. 

Pharmacist Farah Qudah said that an integrated system between pharmacies and the Ministry of Health can be created to monitor the testing and reporting process. 

“I believe people are more likely to get tested if the test is available at pharmacies,” Qudah added.

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