PLATTSBURGH — Pharmacies and drugstores across the country have reported shortages of at-home COVID-19 testing kits amid the holiday season and as cases spike with the emergence of the omicron variant.
At Walgreens locations, demand for rapid over-the-counter COVID-19 tests have experienced an “unprecedented increase,” leading the company to issue a four-item purchase limit for at-home testing products in stores and online.
“We are working with our suppliers to ensure customers have access to self-test kits through the holidays,” a Walgreens spokesperson said. “Some stores may experience a temporary shortage in rapid [over the counter] testing solutions.”
Locally, pharmacies haven’t experienced as dramatic an uptick in demand, with Kinney Drugs saying its stores still have a steady supply of over-the-counter antigen tests, although that can vary store to store, a company spokesperson said.
Smaller pharmacies said they are in similar situations, but some noted they had trouble ordering more stock of tests from certain distributors in recent weeks.
“Right now, we have plenty of at-home COVID tests stocked that we were able to get from our distributors recently, probably within the last week,” Mark Maggy, owner and supervising pharmacist of Maggy’s Pharmacy in Dannemora said Tuesday. “We have seen that it is getting harder and harder to order from certain companies, though.”
But more recently, Maggy said the pharmacy’s main wholesaler is out of stock for tests.
“They have no indication of when the stock will be replenished,” Maggy said, “but we do, luckily, have multiple sources that we can get. But what we sometimes find is that when we get them from our other sources, sometimes they are a little bit higher in price to purchase.”
That can lead to higher prices for customers, Maggy said.
“We do find that does happen with some types of COVID-related products,” Maggy said. “Luckily, we’re still able to bring products in.”
Steve Moore, co-owner and pharmacist at Condo Pharmacy in Plattsburgh, has noticed more interest in tests lately.
"The demand is incredible, especially right now," Moore said, adding that much of the testing lately have been for holiday travelers coming from or going through the Canadian border.
The Montcalm Avenue business offers antigen testing, PCR testing and molecular testing, most of which is not covered by insurance, Moore noted.
Of his pharmacy’s stock of at-home tests, Maggy said Abbott’s Binax are the hardest to come by and are the most limited at his store. Meanwhile, the flowflex antigen test is more readily available.
REASONS FOR TESTING
“In the last two weeks, we have seen a lot of people call,” Maggy said about the at-home tests, noting about a 50% increase in interest than normal.
“Typically, what we are seeing is people buying the home test because they were mandated to be tested at work, so some of the employers allow them to do home testing,” Maggy added. “But now, it seems like we’re getting more and more calls because people are sick and just want to rule out infection.”
That increased interest has extended to the pharmacy’s lab testing, with Maggy’s having to turn some people away earlier this week.
“Every day has been like that for the last five days,” Maggy said.
As people get ready to travel for the holidays, Maggy said testing is an important step to keep each other safe.
“I would definitely recommend testing, especially if you’re gathering in a group. I think the home tests are an incredible product to have on hand,” he said.
If someone did test positive from an at-home test, Maggy said it is important to follow up with a lab test, which would be reported to a local health department for contact tracing purposes.
“If somebody has symptoms, they really should do themselves and their family a favor and get tested,” Maggy said.
— Staff Writer Cara Chapman contributed to this report.
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