Larry Brilliant Says Covid Rapid Tests Are Bad for Public Health

4 days ago 36

Second, the longer this virus continues, the more variants we’re going to have. We don’t know exactly what forms a variant, but for sure one factor is immunocompromised people who have the virus puttering around longer in their system—not for 17 days like me, but for months. The body can’t clear the virus completely. You’ve created ideal circumstances for reassortment, recombination.

Another issue is that we don’t have a good handle on numbers because we never got testing, right?

What if I said to you that antigens, those rapid at-home tests we all use now, were bad for our public health? It’s stupid that antigen tests were approved without the requirement to report positive cases.

How would you enforce that?

Through technology. It’s not that hard to build the technology to do automatic reporting. There’s now a class of at-home molecular tests that can already do that. They’re almost as good as PCR tests.

Aren’t those more expensive?

The only thing that makes them expensive is the lack of scale. Right now we can get antigen tests for as little as $5. If you’re doing a billion molecular tests, you can bring the cost down as well.

When those molecular tests go to the FDA for approval, they say that all positives should be reported. That makes them much better than antigen tests, which are great at the back end of the disease when you’re trying to determine if you’re still infectious. But they're terrible for the first two days, when the rate of false negatives is so high. Between the false negatives and the fact that they don’t report into public health, antigen tests are dangerous to the public health.

Would you ban them?

I would regulate them.

On to vaccines. The one we have works against the original version of Covid, which no one gets a...

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