As vaccination drives kick into high gear, parts of the world are progressively opening up borders and easing restrictions on events and travel. It appears that a return to a semblance of normalcy is within reach. At the same time, recurring waves of COVID-19 stand as reminders that recovery must be undertaken with caution, and with robust measures in place.
Testing continues to be critical as the world starts to think about returning to travel and business events. Still, there are some lingering misconceptions on the topic. To help bridge information gaps in the travel community, we speak to the experts at PerkinElmer, a leading test kit manufacturer and the world’s first provider of end-to-end SARS CoV-2 testing solutions.
Testing Myths Debunked
Myth #1: With vaccination rates increasing, testing can take a backseat?
Although existing vaccines are able to prevent symptoms, there is increasing evidence that vaccination can only reduce, without fully eliminating, the risk of infection and transmission.
Testing remains integral to containment efforts and a key part of border entry requirements for the conceivable future. Almost across the board in Asia, travellers or returning residents must present negative test results to enter destinations. This is the case in destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Australia, and so on.
While some countries are easing rules for entry (e.g. Qatar) and event attendance for vaccinated individuals, the reality is that people who have received their shots can still be asymptomatic carriers.
Vaccinated individuals carry low viral loads, making it necessary for tests to have maximum sensitivity to avoid false negatives, PerkinElmer stressed.
A recent publication reported that vaccine efficacy may be compromised when it comes to SARS-CoV-2 variants. Test kits that can detect variants, such as PerkinElmer’s two available kits, will continue to play a central role going forward.
PerkinElmer’s kits offer two SARS-CoV-2 second-tier assay options, giving labs the flexibility to implement one or both solutions based on the information being sought and workflow considerations.
Myth #2: Non-invasive tests are unreliable?
Currently, the most common ways to obtain test samples are from up the nose or the back of the throat. While non-invasive methods like spitting into a tube are available, they are believed to be less accurate.
Not true, PerkinElmer says. Saliva testing can have a comparably high level of accuracy as long as the most sensitive PCR tests are used. In fact, New Zealand’s airport immigration workers are already using PerkinElmer tests with saliva as a matrix.
These tests designed by PerkinElmer build on the commercially available test kit with the lowest limitation of detection (LOD) in the market according to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The reason saliva is thought to be a less-than-ideal sample is because its abundance of impurities can have a negative impact on PCR testing. PerkinElmer’s chemagen nucleic acid extraction technology overcomes these challenges, enabling reproducible extraction of high-yield and high-quality RNA from human saliva.
This alternative method could be big for travel and event organisers, who may have a difficult time attracting attendees given the invasiveness of existing pre-event testing.
Saliva spit tests can yield comparatively high levels of accuracy if the most sensitive tests are used. Photo Credit: AnnaSivak/Getty Images
Myth #3: Mass COVID-19 testing is inefficient and unviable?
Not only is saliva collection easier on patients, it is also faster and more scalable for those carrying out the tests, according to PerkinElmer.
For mass testing needs, PerkinElmer manufactures a molecular diagnostic test kit approved to screen pooled, asymptomatic individuals. Pooling samples can result in five times the cost savings, PerkinElmer shared.
Late last year, the FDA allowed sample pooling with PerkinElmer’s New Coronavirus Nucleic Acid Detection Kit, increasing the number of individuals who can be tested, without increasing demands on resources. If a pooled test is negative, all the individual samples are considered negative. If it comes back positive, each of the individual samples in that pool are tested again separately.
Pooling could certainly help address cost and efficiency concerns, the two biggest challenges in post-pandemic travel management and pre-event testing.
To simplify the process for event and travel managers, PerkinElmer — the only test manufacturer that also provides medtech solutions and end-user delivery — offers the COVID-19 Enterprise Solution and Test Passport encompassing sample collection, testing, reporting results and entry clearance.
The COVID-19 Enterprise Solution is customisable to different requests, such as in the case of a concert organiser who had asked for attendee test results to be reflected in concert tickets for greater efficiency in clearance.
PerkinElmer’s end-to-end solution for businesses include sample collection, testing, and results delivered to ‘test passports’.
Whether you are a travel agency, TMC, or event planner, testing will be a big part of business resumption. The situation is still evolving, and new information about the virus continues to surface. PerkinElmer, as the world’s only one-stop provider of testing solutions, can help fill a gap by combining medical expertise and business solutions, helping organisations get back to business safely.
For more information, visit https://perkinelmer-appliedgenomics.com/home/sars-cov-2-testing-solutions/covid-passport/.
This article is brought to you by PerkinElmer