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In this US airport, you can buy COVID-19 saliva test kits via vending machine

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Feb 02, 2021 2:59 am

Travelers flying from the Oklahoma International Airport need not go the extra mile for their COVID-19 tests, thanks to a vending machine offering saliva RT-PCR test kits right in the station.

Developed by Atlanta-based social enterprise Wellness 4 Humanity, the vending machine offers home saliva test kits issued with an emergency use authorization (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year. 

The machine provides fuss-free contactless purchase by requiring customers to buy the kits on w4humanity.com for $150 (P7,208). A  QR code will then be sent to their email, which they must scan on the vending machine for it to dispense the kit.  

The test will be done through saliva collection then sent to a partner lab via FedEx shipping label. Customers receive the results within 48 hours with 99% accuracy through the Trustpass app, a mobile application offering various COVID-19 testing methodologies in the US.

Wellness 4 Humanity first launched the vending machines for online sales in December 2020, at a time when many Americans were traveling for the holidays despite the pandemic.

"Millions of Americans traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday, indicating there's an enormous pent-up demand to see family and friends this holiday season after months of isolation. Despite warnings and rising cases around the country, it's clear that people are going to travel and gather, so our goal is to bring them together again in the safest way possible through easy access to fast and highly accurate COVID-19 tests," said the company’s CEO and co-founder, Lian Nguyen Pham.

Their goal is to roll out 1,000 of its “automated stores” in subway stations, entertainment venues, hotels, college campuses, grocery stores, and shopping malls throughout the U.S.

“We've seen similar vending machines placed in highly populated, highly trafficked areas of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom to help contain the spread of the virus,” Pham added. “And given the surge in cases the U.S. is currently experiencing, we hope to roll out our vending machines as soon as possible.”

The vending machines each come with a $15,000 (P720,825) price tag. It includes delivery, set up, software integration, and full stocking with test kits for U.S.-based businesses.

Saliva RT-PCR testing in the Philippines

In the local scene, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has begun rolling out COVID-19 saliva test kits at its molecular laboratories in Mandaluyong and Manila Port Area on Jan. 25. This came after PRC got approval for its private use from a government laboratory experts’ panel and the Department of Health (DOH).

The saliva RT-PCR tests are defined by the PCR as non-invasive, as it only requires the collection of 1.5 to 2 milliliters of saliva through a vial in testing facilities. It only costs P2,000 or less—much cheaper than nasal swab tests priced at P3,800 to P5,000. 

The saliva test was also proven to have 95% accuracy rate with results processed within three to 10 hours, according to PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon. 

 PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon demonstrates how to use the saliva RT-PCR test kit. Photo: The STAR/Boy Santos

 PRC is eyeing to roll out saliva testing in its labs nationwide by Feb. 5. However, Gordon said in his TeleRadyo interview on Feb. 1 that the DOH is being “slow” in its approval of the tests’ public use.

“Secretary Duque told us that we can do saliva tests but for private use only. The ordinary citizen gets final priority once more because the ones paying for ordinary citizens – the OFWs – are our so-called valiant and diligent PhilHealth,” Gordon said, noting that the state insurer has yet to include saliva tests in its benefit package.

“I’m getting annoyed because it’s not right that they’re being slow, that’s why I call a spade a spade,” he added.

Those who would like to avail themselves of PRC’s saliva test must book an appointment on book.redcross1158.com. 

Banner photos from Wellness 4 Humanity Instagram page.