Can we rely on the Rapid test?
Can we trust a Rapid test? What is the difference between a Rapid test and a PCR test?
If these are some of the questions you have asked yourself, we will not blame you. We experience many Danes are victims of ambiguous, deficient, and inaccurate communication facilitated both by the media and the health authorities.
For the moment, we experience that there is not a sufficient and comparable amount of research, which can document for the safety of the Rapid test. A new Danish study has indicated that the Rapid test only captures 70% of the people who were tested positive with PCR (Read here). According to this study, three out of ten people will be tested false-negative with the Rapid test, without taking the population into account, and whether the tested were symptomatic/asymptomatic. In connection with a comparative case with one of our clients, the Rapid test only found 40% of the positive samples. These numbers are also very strong indicators of the analyses and statistics that the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found. The CDC found 59 % of false-negative with the use of the Rapid test on asymptomatic people like in Denmark (See here).
Give yourself a few minutes to reflect on the absurdity that we in Denmark have chosen a test strategy that allows the use of such an undocumented and inaccurate test method. Could you, by comparison, consider using contraception that is only 70% safe?
The most frequently used argument is that no test is better than no test. It is simply a misconception. The argument originates from an understanding that the Rapid test is the only option. Who imagined that there is no alternative to Rapid tests? There are now a lot of providers who can offer reliable test results within a few hours. And no, it is not the same as a result after 15 minutes. But if the consequence of taking a Rapid test is that more people in the workplace become infected with COVID-19 and a department must shut down, would it not be worth waiting a few additional hours to have a reliable test result?
In January, we had a specific case with one of our clients, in which they chose to get 99 of their employees tested. First, with the rapid test, and then with our PCR test 30 minutes later. The results were frighteningly different. There were 10 positive cases found but the Rapid test only found 4 of them. If the company had trusted the Rapid test blindly, it could have resulted in a lot of new infection chains, financial losses, and the need for a much larger test effort. In these cases, quality always beats quantity.
“Based on our own testing experience with both methods, we prefer to use the PCR test as a standard method when testing our employees” – Christian Høy-Petersen, Customer Experience Director, DHL (Denmark) A/S.
The Rapid test is most often the guarantor of dangerous false security. The fact that Denmark is currently shut down while companies go bankrupt and money flows out of the state coffers is perhaps an expression that the government and health authorities do not dare to trust the Rapid test themselves. Nor have they been clear and unambiguous in their recommendations of the Rapid test. On the contrary, an expert group at SSI came with the announcement on 2 November 2020 that the Rapid test was far too uncertain for the national test effort to be built around this type of test (Read in Danish here). A few months later, the Rapid test was good to be used because the response times in the public system were so long that the test results were useless before reaching the recipient.
It seems as if the authorities have focused more on not losing face than offering the Danes a way out of the crisis. Has anyone tried to compare the cost to shut down versus the cost to get help from the private providers and upgrade the national PCR test effort keep up? The Rapid test is called an antigen test, which detects viral proteins using a chemical test. In contrast, the PCR test looks for the virus’ RNA and detects down to a single virus particle in a mucus sample. Therefore, it is much more sensitive and thus far more accurate.
It is our experience that many people think the swab collection from the nose is performed only with a Rapid test. We can dispel this myth immediately. Nasal and pharyngeal swabbing are just two different sampling methods but have nothing to do with the test type. You can also choose to be swabbed in the nose when you need to have a PCR test done. Some have the idea that the private PCR tests are not as valid as the ones performed by the state. This is not correct. Our COVID-19 tests are perhaps even faster, more thorough, and more sensitive. These are the kind of misunderstandings that prove our point; that the danish people are underinformed and are fed with COVID-19 tokenism.