The program to provide free Rapid Antigen Tests to eligible Commonwealth concession card holders* is now underway.
However, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch is warning that due to a significant shortage of the tests in the State, concession card holders will face delays in accessing them.
Under the Rapid Antigen Testing Concessional Access Program, eligible Commonwealth concession card holders can access a maximum of 10 free tests in a three-month period with a maximum of five tests in any one month from participating community pharmacies.
WA Branch President, Andrew Ngeow said that “there is no doubt nearly 800,000 concession card holders in Western Australia are going to be disappointed on Monday.”
Participating community pharmacies are responsible for purchasing tests for the program and will later be reimbursed for these under an arrangement funded by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.
“The major issue for the program in Western Australia is sourcing adequate supplies, as there remains unprecedented demand for Rapid Antigen Tests in the COVID-19 ravaged eastern States,” Mr Ngeow said.
Whilst frustrating, most Western Australian concession card holders should be able to access at least part of their allocation in February.
The Western Australian government’s recent announcement to delay the full border opening will impact on the use of the Rapid Antigen Tests.
“Whilst a useful screening tool, Rapid Antigen Tests are not recommended when there is low prevalence of COVID-19,” Mr Ngeow said. “Using a test next week would really be a waste, and they’re far better to be used after the borders reopen or if we experience an eastern States Omicron style outbreak.”
Western Australia pharmacies are working overtime to source quantities of Rapid Antigen Tests and will be quick to advise their patients when they have an available supply.
Symptomatic or potentially infected individuals should not visit their community pharmacies to obtain a Rapid Antigen Test, due to the risk of infection of pharmacy staff and other customers but rather attend at a dedicated COVID-19 testing centre.
“We ask people to be understanding and tolerant as supplies of Rapid Antigen Tests in sufficient quantities to meet the level of demand are perhaps a month or more away,” Mr Ngeow concluded.
* Eligibility includes people with a Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card, Health Care Card, Low Income Health Card.