Bill Gates-Funded COVID-19 Tracking Program Shut Down by FDA
Seattle-based program ordered to halt at-home coronavirus self-testing
A Bill Gates-funded COVID-19 tracking program has been shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to reports.
The Seattle-based initiative, Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, or SCAN, has been ordered to halt its at-home coronavirus testing scheme by the federal authorities.
The FDA has ordered SCAN to stop screening for the virus, putting the program, that has been providing hundreds of home testing kits each day, on pause.
As of Wednesday, all links to the project’s website now redirect to a notice stating its operations are “currently paused” due to a conflict with the FDA.
“SCAN has been operating under an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Washington State Department of Health,” the notice says.
“We have been notified that under revised guidance issued on May 8th, a separate federal EUA is now required” to continue testing.
“It has the potential to become an important tool for health officials seeking insights about the spread and behavior of the virus,” Gates wrote.
The FDA has requested additional information about SCAN’s at-home nasal swabs and seeks clarification on the project’s testing of “people who have not reported Covid-like illness,” according to RT.
While the notice offered no timetable for when testing might go back online, it noted that SCAN is “actively working” to address the FDA’s concerns and has been in contact with the agency since March.
Spearheaded by five Seattle-area healthcare organizations, the program, according to Gates, was meant to create a coronavirus surveillance system by testing “a sample of people in the Seattle region” – both sick and healthy.
Gates says he hopes to gain insight into how the illness is “moving through the community, who is at greatest risk, and whether physical distancing measures are working.”
"The key advantage of this at-home testing approach is that people don't need to go to a clinic, where they risk exposing themselves or others to infection," he added.
I’m hopeful that this program will improve our understanding of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle and provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world. https://t.co/wnFarp28ys— Bill Gates (@BillGates) May 13, 2020
Though the FDA has given no indication that the SCAN project is linked to fraud, the agency has gone on high alert after a rush of fly-by-night coronavirus testing services emerged across the US, many offering faulty or outright fake test kits.
With such schemes becoming more prevalent, the FDA, FBI, CDC, and a number of other federal agencies have issued public warnings to consumers.
Ramped-up testing around the country has seen over 9.6 million carried out in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Public health officials are continuing to sound alarms about inadequate supplies, however.
Many argue that states should not consider reopening without widespread screenings in place.
SCAN will likely argue that while the program is out of commission, at least temporarily, that goal will be pushed further out of reach.