Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) and Kroger Co (NYSE:KR) have stopped selling a rapid COVID-19 test at cost price after a 100-day deal with the White House expired. The test will now be more expensive at a time when demand has soared due to skyrocketing Omicron infections.
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As reported by the New York Post, the biggest retailers in the U.S. have increased the price of a rapid Covid test heavily on demand. The antigen self-test known as BinaxNOW is selling for $20 at Walmart and $24 at Kroger.
“The large price jumps followed the lapse of the Biden administration’s Sept. 9 deal with manufacturer Abbott Laboratories to provide them for $14,” the media outlet reports.
A Walmart spokesperson revealed that the program expired in mid-December, “and while other retailers increased prices in mid-December, Walmart held the $14.00 through the holidays before increasing the price.”
Due to the intense demand, the retailer set a purchase limit both online and in-store and by Tuesday night the test was out of stock on Walmart.com.
Fox Business reports that Amazon Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) was also part of the same agreement with the White House and does not have the product available for sale.
President Joe Biden said his administration was working on a plan to send people 500 million free Covid tests, given the steep demand amid the Omicron surge. At present, the country averages 550,000 new infections every day.
As of Tuesday, Biden was working on a deal with rapid test manufacturers and —given the scarcity of these products— urged people to Google test availability at every drugstore, retail store, and website.
Amid the high demand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in late December that rapid antigen tests could be less effective at detecting Omicron than earlier variants on the virus.
“Early data suggest that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,” the organization said, and added that, together with RADx, it is continuing to “further evaluate the performance of antigen tests using patient samples with live virus.”