N.B. Lung Association increasing access to COVID-19 testing for immunocompromised

·3 min read
Immunocompromised individuals, those with lung disease and people living with them will be able to get their COVID-19 test kits at the Fredericton library every Tuesday until the end of December, said Dusty Green of the New Brunswick Lung Association. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Immunocompromised individuals, those with lung disease and people living with them will be able to get their COVID-19 test kits at the Fredericton library every Tuesday until the end of December, said Dusty Green of the New Brunswick Lung Association. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The New Brunswick Lung Association has found a new location for their test kit initiative which provides COVID-19 rapid tests and masks to people with a lung disease or who are immunocompromised, and for the people living with them.

Dusty Green, the manager of marketing and development at the association, said the project has been ongoing for a few months and it's an effort to increase access to testing.

"It's really just a matter of wanting to give people the ability to test without any sort of hoops that they need to jump through in order to do that," he said.

The Fredericton Public Library will serve as the new pick-up location for the test kits.

The kits include 10 tests and 20 KN95 respirator masks. There is a limit of one kit per household every 90 days. People who qualify for the kits don't need to have symptoms in order to get them.

"We're just trying to sort of fill that gap where some people that are symptomatic or maybe not comfortable going out when they have it or some people might be more comfortable just having some kits on hand."

The kits were previously available through the Lung Association's office, but Green said it got overwhelming as staff were spending full days tending to the people getting kits.

Joe McDonald/CBC
Joe McDonald/CBC

Individuals will be able to get their kits at the library every Tuesday until the end of December.

High demand 

Green said the demand for kits is definitely there.

"We're getting lots of kind words and positive messages from people," he said. "People seem really appreciative that the service is available."

He said it comes down to ease of access.

The Government of New Brunswick does provide at-home rapid tests, but individuals have to be symptomatic or work in a vulnerable setting to qualify for them, according to their website.

Shelley Petit, chairperson for the New Brunswick Coalition for Persons with Disabilities, said a service that provides tests to immunocompromised people is necessary.

"When you're immunocompromised and you have disabilities, where your body is already fighting you every day of the week and every moment of that day, catching COVID is so dangerous," said Petit.

She said members of the coalition say they want to be able to safely leave their homes, but getting tests is challenging because of the requirement to be symptomatic.

Petit said the Lung Association's project will allow disabled people to do precautionary testing.

She said the sooner someone realizes they have COVID, the earlier they can start looking into accessing Paxlovid, an antiviral drug for treatment of COVID-19.

Petit said the 20 masks provided in each Lung Association kit will make a big difference for people with disabilities, too.

CBC
CBC

"We're recycling masks because we can't afford it otherwise. … This is going to be a huge benefit for our members," said Petit. "It's going to save people from ending up back at the ER."

She said when she caught COVID-19, she ended up in the hospital partly because she didn't have tests readily available.

"[The New Brunswick Lung Association is] saving people's lives," said Petit.

Green said the project is in collaboration with Health Canada and the Red Cross, so when they run out of kits, they can request more. The association is currently asking people to register online to pick up their kits so they have an idea of how many will be required each week.

"We're just trying to make it as easy as possible to get test kits in the hands of New Brunswickers."