Americans will soon find a new vending machine item in grocery stores, shopping malls, airports and subway stations around the country: at-home test kits for COVID-19.
Startup Wellness 4 Humanity has partnered with medical device company Spectrum Solutions and the software and technology services company Swyft to offer COVID-19 testing kits for sale through the contact-free convenience of vending machines.
The at-home RT-PCT test kit is the first saliva test for COVID-19 authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and is advertised as having a 99.99% accuracy rate in diagnosing the coronavirus. The company recently unveiled the first vending machine in New York. It plans to roll out a thousand of the machines across the country over the next six months.
Oakland International became the first airport in the U.S. to offer the testing-kit vending machines, officials announced last week. Travelers now have access to the vending machines in both terminals at the airport.
Unlike a Twix bar or bag of potato chips, however, the saliva RT-PCT test kits must first be purchased online at w4humanity.com. Once a purchase is made, a QR code will be sent to the consumer, which can then be used at a vending machine to retrieve a kit. The kits sell for between $119 and $149.
“Simply place [the QR code] in front of the vending machine,” said Pavel Stuchlik, co-founder of Wellness 4 Humanity, and the pre-purchased kit is dispensed.
Current wait times for coronavirus testing can be several hours long, especially in major cities such as New York, where lines at CityMD and other urgent care centers often wrap around the block. By contrast, the vending machine saliva tests eliminate the inconvenience and risk of standing in a line and of being in close contact with others, including health care professionals.
Similar to the at-home saliva collection kits used by DNA-testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com, the RT-PCR test kits include a saliva-collection device, biohazard bag, return shipping label and user guide. The test involves filling a plastic tube with saliva, then screwing a special cap onto the tube and shaking the contents.
Users then place the sealed tube into a bag and mail it to a lab using a pre-printed shipping label. Once received, it usually takes one or two days for people to get results.
Test kits may be covered by insurance, depending on your health plan. They are also available for home delivery through Wellness 4 Humanity and Amazon.com.