WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nowadays, long lines come with the territory of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But not too long ago, those long lines snaked their way down streets and through parking lots for something else: a coronavirus test.
“You want to test because you want to quickly find a contaminated individual,” said Thierry Bernard, CEO of QIAGEN, a company that develops and manufactures COVID-19 tests.
Bernard said just because several COVID-19 vaccines are a reality, doesn’t mean testing will be going away anytime soon.
“We are all in this together: It's the vaccine industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the testing industry,” he said.
The Biden Administration appears to agree. It just announced plans to invest $1.6 billion in testing in three specific areas:
- Providing more coronavirus testing in schools as they reopen
- Doing more sequencing of COVID-19 to find any mutations
- Manufacturing more testing supplies
Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team believe even more may be needed.
“To be clear, these resources are a significant help in the short term. They are far from what's necessary to meet the need for testing and communities across the country,” said Carole Johnson, the response team’s testing coordinator. “They are merely a bridge until Congress passes the American Rescue Plan to fully expand testing and ensure that any American get a test when they need one.”
Even once the U.S. reaches herd immunity, where between 70 to 90 percent of the population gets vaccinated or has antibodies after beating the virus, experts say testing for it will likely remain and become a part of life, similar to how we deal with the flu.
“People are not going to just test for flu; they will test for flu and COVID at the same time,” Bernard said of future testing.
Monitoring for any coronavirus mutations will also be key, to make sure the vaccines that are available are still working.
“This is why you will hear more and more about next-generation testing of the virus,” Bernard said. “To make sure that we have that surveillance.”
It’s just one way of keeping an eye on a virus that’s still the center of attention.