Kroger Health, the healthcare division of The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), today announced the launch of rapid antibody testing across its family of pharmacies, expanding the company’s existing portfolio of in-clinic and at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests, to help inform patients if they have previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The FDA-authorized rapid antibody tests—conducted using a finger-prick blood sample—are now available at Kroger pharmacies in California (Ralphs) and Michigan and will be available at all Kroger pharmacies and clinics by the end of November. The tests, which are supplied by Whitmire Medical, are available to Kroger customers for $25 and typically provide results within 15 minutes. Individuals who believe they may have previously been infected with COVID-19 and are not currently experiencing symptoms are eligible for the test.
In September, the American Society for Microbiology reported that 73% of surveyed testing labs experienced a shortage of commercial testing kits for SARS-CoV-2, a capacity challenge that may have hindered testing accessibility for many Americans. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many states, Kroger Health’s rapid antibody test may provide critical information about past infection to patients who believe they may have been exposed to the coronavirus but were unable to access testing at the time of infection.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kroger Heath has remained committed to helping people live healthier lives by offering in-clinic and at-home COVID-19 testing solutions supported by our multi-disciplinary team of licensed, trained and experienced healthcare providers,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. “Making rapid antibody testing available across our family of pharmacies will not only provide an affordable and convenient testing solution for individuals who want to understand if they have previously been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, but also help clinicians understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and potential public health strategies for fighting the disease.”
Kroger Health’s rapid antibody tests are conducted by a licensed health professional using a fingerstick blood sample and the Assure COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test Device, a rapid lateral flow chromatographic immunoassay (configured like a blood sugar test) to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. The test was first authorized by the FDA for emergency use in July and further authorized for broader point-of-care use in September. Kroger is the first retailer to offer the testing solution to its customers.
Research is still underway to determine how long antibodies are present following infection and if the presence of antibodies provides protective immunity. Regardless of the testing result, all patients should continue to practice FDA-recommended safety guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks. The Assure COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test should not be used to diagnose an active infection, as the test only detects antibodies developed in response to the virus, not the virus itself.