Pharmacies seeing 'huge demand' for antigen tests

The Government is facing calls to make the rapid tests more widely available
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.12 3 Nov 2021

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Pharmacies seeing 'huge demand...

Pharmacies seeing 'huge demand' for antigen tests

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.12 3 Nov 2021

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Dublin pharmacist and former TD Kate O'Connell says she is seeing 'huge demand' for antigen tests in the last fortnight.

It comes as Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan says he has not recommended making the tests available to everyone for free.

The Government is facing calls to make the rapid tests more widely available so people can use them a few times a week.


Currently, vaccinated close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases will get five antigen tests in the post to self-test themselves every second day.

Ms O'Connell told The Hard Shoulder the tests have a role to play.

"There's been a huge demand for antigen tests, predominantly in the last 12 to 14 days. We've seen a big surge in people coming in looking for them.

"People are looking for them more now than they were before".

She also says staff will try and talk to people before selling the tests.

"Part of our policy is a consultation has to be attached to the selling of an antigen test.

"We try to go through with people, perhaps, why they're choosing an antigen test and the limitation of an antigen test.

"Sometimes we wouldn't sell them and we'd say 'In your case, we would recommend that you go and have a PCR test.'

"So there is a conversation there some of the time in the pharmacy.

"And sometimes people just don't want to have a conversation; they've already used them a lot and they're familiar with them and they make their own decision on them".

Rise in respiratory illness

She says while there is no particular group buying them, there seems to be a common reason.

"A lot of people were using them, let's say, if they were going to visit granny and grandad.

"If they were visiting an older, more vulnerable person just to attach a bit of certainty - if they'd no symptoms and nobody had been a contact - just for that reassurance.

"But also with the rise in respiratory illness, just because of flu season and because of winter.

"People are busy, they're working, and they're going 'Well maybe this isn't COVID, do I have time to go for a PCR test?'

"And they're using the antigen tests, to some extent, to make that step towards going for a PCR test".

And Ms O'Connell says she finds that antigen is easier in the first instance for most people.

"You shouldn't be using the antigen as a screen, but the reality is if you've a family and four children and two parents in the house... you could have runny noses for eight weeks.

"Are people actually going to present for PCR testing every few days or bring a member of their family?

"In practical terms, that's not what people are doing.

"People in our experience are going for PCR tests if they have a positive antigen test... but also if there's a link there to COVID.

"But if it's just attached to seasonal, nasal symptoms people are - in my experience - reluctant to go out and have a PCR test."

Asked if antigen tests should be free, she says: "There always has to be caution attached to spending taxpayers' money.

"At the minute there's free PCR tests - which are the gold standard - free to people, they're not totally free: the State is paying for them.

"I think it's very important to gather the real-life data on the effectiveness of antigen testing - are they actually preventing transmission? Are they actually catching people?"

It comes as Immunology Professor Christine Loscher has said the tests should be freely available to households.

She earlier told Newstalk everyone in Ireland should be self-testing twice a week.

"I completely agree that we have been backward about antigen testing," she said.

"I think antigen testing needs to be made freely available and I think we need to get into the habit in our own households that we check everybody twice a week.

"That needs to become part of our own monitoring in everyday life. That needs to be made available and it needs to be made free."

Main image: A man holds antigen tests with positive and negative results in August 2021. Picture by: Rawf8 / Alamy Stock Photo

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Antigen Tests Christine Loscher Covid-19 Cases Dr Tony Holohan Huge Demand Kate O'connell PCR Tests The Hard Shoulder

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