Nova Scotia students in pre-primary to Grade 6 have been given rapid testing kits to take home this week as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, but the expiry date on those tests is raising concern among some parents.
Stephanie Sudsbury’s four-year-old son recently came home from pre-primary with the rapid testing kits, and she immediately read over the notes on symptoms to look for and how to administer the test if needed.
“At that point I did not look at the expiry date at the test, did not even think about it because in my mind, I’m just getting that test, the last thing I’m going to do is look at that expiry date,” she said.
“I expected it to be good at least through the school year.”
However, after seeing discussions online about expired kits being sent home, the Lower Sackville parent decided to check her own.
She said she was “shocked” to see hers expired on May 18 of this year.
Included in the testing kits was a note from the province explaining the manufacturer has extended that expiry date by a year.
But in an E-mail to Global News, a spokesperson for BD Life Sciences wrote that while tests were initially approved for a six-month shelf life, they are now good for 12 months. That translates to six months beyond the printed expiry date.
‘So any kit with an expiration date of 2021-05-18 has been extended six months and the new expiration date would be 2021-11-18,” wrote Troy Kirkpatrick.
In a statement to Global News, Health Canada echoed this timeline, by saying that the BD Veritor tests “currently has a shelf life of 12 months.” This would mean the tests are valid for six months beyond the original printed expiry date.
“The manufacturer has not requested an extension to the authorized shelf life. Health Canada is actively working to facilitate a shelf life extension under the expansion of use mechanism,” wrote media relations advisor, André Gagnon.
Gagnon added that a number of shelf life extensions have been granted — either by the manufacturer seeking an extension or “through an expanded use authorization supported by validation studies conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory.”
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Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said he is looking into the discrepancy.
“We’ve gotten some communication that has told us six months, other has told us 12 months, so we’re going back to Health Canada and the manufacturers and saying, ‘What is it? Is it six months or 12 months? Give us clarification,’” he said.
Regardless of which is correct, Strang said it’s important for parents to know that no test is expired yet.
“The earliest expiry date is Nov. 18, so those kits can be safely used today,” he explained.
“We’re working to clarify the potential for extension of the expiry date for those kits.”
Halifax-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett said in the meantime, parents do not need to be concerned. She also stressed that the tests are not unsafe in any way.
“No, the tests that are given out despite looking expired are not yet. Might they become expired in the next little while? Perhaps. But we also don’t know that they’re not going to extend the good before date even further,” she said.
“It’s not like it suddenly turns bad. It’s like the milk in your fridge. It doesn’t suddenly turn bad on the day that the date arrives.”
She added that even if the tests become inaccurate, they wouldn’t “suddenly” become inaccurate on the expiry date.
“There will be efforts to make sure that we have additional tests available for those that are going to expire, for sure. And again, by the time we get to that point, (the date) may actually have been extended even further. We’re not sure yet,” she said.
With all the confusion, Sudsbury said she’s decided to skip the take-home tests altogether.
“I think my better option would be if he’s showing symptoms or a close contact obviously go get him tested at the appropriate clinic, not doing the at-home test,” she said.
“Why put him through doing the test at home if it’s possible it could be wrong or not?”
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