Biden Trying to Fulfill Promise of 500 Million Free COVID Tests President Joe Biden holds a mask as he gives remarks on his administration's response to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. During the remarks President Biden urged unvaccinated individuals to seek the vaccine and highlighted his plan to distribute free COVID-19 tests and masks to the American people. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Wednesday, 02 February 2022 03:41 PM
The fact that the federal government is currently mailing tens of millions of rapid coronavirus tests requested through a new Postal Service website is a striking turnaround for an administration that had earlier struggled to meet demand for such tests as it focused largely on vaccination, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The home deliveries, and broadened access to tests overall, comes a month after President Joe Biden in late December, at a time when tests were almost nowhere to be found on retail shelves, promised that his administration would mail 500 million of them to Americans, free of charge.
According to a recent Axios-Ipsos poll, 44% of respondents said they had already ordered free tests through the government, and 84% of respondents said they backed the plan, including a majority of unvaccinated respondents.
The administration succeeded partially by turning to several new players, including one company that had never made rapid tests. The administration had also spent billions late last summer and in the fall buying tests directly from manufacturers, and quickened the process for reviewing and authorizing new ones, The New York Times reported.
The review process had been slow, some experts said, due to meticulous standards that made quick market growth a significant challenge, even in a public health emergency.
But in the fall, the FDA worked with the National Institutes of Health to initiate a much faster review process that has permitted regulators to clear tests within days of receiving final data.
This has helped lead to a situation where there are currently 14 authorizations of over-the-counter rapid antigen tests, compared to less than half that number at the end of the summer.
By the middle of last month the administration had announced a series of much larger contracts with test manufacturers, with contractors committed to providing more than 550 million tests, a White House spokesman said, the Times reported.
It has also been an enormous effort to mailing out the tests, with the Health and Human Services Department having recently hired senior FedEx official Steven Goddard to make the logistics more efficient.
The Postal Service, which is managing the deliveries, hired thousands of temporary employees and also arranged dozens of fulfillment centers.
In addition, the website, where people can order the free tests, has so far been largely free of glitches.