NHSO gets ready for nationwide distribution of antigen test kits
The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has partnered with the Public Health Ministry and Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) to distribute 8.5 million Covid-19 antigen test kits (ATK) to hospitals and pharmacies across Thailand.
The distribution follows the NHSO board's August 4 decision to allow the procurement of the kits.
Dr Kornchakoch Limsommut from the Public Health Ministry's Office of the Permanent Secretary said the ATK would be distributed nationwide within a week of arrival.
Each province should have at least 40,000 units by the end of September. Provinces with a larger population or higher prevalence of Covid-19 cases will get more units.
Of the 8.5 million kits imported, 1.5 million will be reserved for emergencies, such as the detection of new clusters that will require a quick dispatch of the kits to affected areas.
Dr Kriddhiya Sriprasert, a senior adviser at the NHSO, said the kits are being imported by the GPO, though the NHSO is funding the process.
Once the shipment arrives, GPO will send batches to provincial public health offices and Bangkok's Health Department, which will then distribute them among local hospitals and pharmacies.
When handing test kits to users, health workers are required to verify their authentication codes and provide instructions to users. The NHSO will also pay 10 baht per test kit to offset the time health workers spend assisting users.
"If users test positive, they must go into home isolation or community isolation. However, they will be required to undergo RT-PCR tests if they want to join the community isolation scheme,” Dr Kriddhiya said.
"If their RT-PCR test results are negative, they should follow health workers' guidance and retest under the Public Health Ministry's guidelines."
The NHSO will involve local pharmacies and private clinics in the ATK distribution plan, added NHSO secretary-general Dr Jadej Thammatach-aree.
The NHSO has established a strong network with pharmacies and private clinics that have participated in the organisation’s previous schemes, including medicine home delivery and home isolation programme.
"We plan to engage pharmacists at local drug stores by asking them to provide advice to people with positive results. The pharmacists can alert local hospitals or give the instruction on how the patients can isolate at home," he said.
"The NHSO will work with the Public Health Ministry and the GPO to distribute ATK to high-risk populations. We will assess the situation at the end of September and decide if we need to purchase more kits.”
GPO representative Rungpetch Sakulbamrungsil suggested that the NHSO release a list of local pharmacies, their locations, and contacts on its website or mobile application.
This will make it easier for people to reach out to pharmacists for advice on using ATK and self-isolating at home.
Pharmacists can arrange online consultants for Covid-19 patients who may need support under home isolation.
The NHSO will also procure 27 million tablets of anti-viral Favipiravir to ensure there are no shortages.