Distribution of Free Corona Self-Test in Austrian Pharmacies Starts: How It Works and Who Will Receive It

More+More+ ♦ Published: March 1, 2021; 06:34 ♦ (Vindobona)

As of March 1, the free test offer will be gradually expanded with free self-tests in pharmacies. Up to five free tests are available per person per month. But not every person living in Austria is eligible to receive them. Following are the details.

Since March 1, Austria's pharmacies have been offering so-called "living room tests," which allow people to test themselves for coronavirus at home, free of charge. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / joho345, Public Domain

Austria is taking the next step in its testing offensive to ease Corona measures.

As of March 1, the free testing offer will be gradually expanded with free self-testing in pharmacies

Up to five free tests will be available per person per month.

Initially, however, only about 500,000 to 600,000 self-tests are available.

By mid-March, there should be significantly more available self-tests. Pharmacies are to be supplied successively with further test kits.

The distribution of the free home tests by pharmacies is a long-term project. The pharmacies will be supplied with new tests on an ongoing basis. Every citizen can therefore expect to receive a test kit, but only gradually, explains the Chamber of Pharmacists, and therefore asks that people not rush to the pharmacies on the very first day to pick up the free self-tests. By mid-March, there will already be considerably more tests available than at the start of the campaign.

For the first week, around three million individual tests will be delivered to pharmacies. In terms of time and organization, this is very challenging, as the individual tests first have to be prepared by the pharmacies into five-piece packages with explanatory information material so that the tests can be given to people at all. Pharmacists are doing everything in their power to ensure that as many living room tests as possible are distributed to the population as quickly as possible. Ideally, we would like to hand out the desired living room tests to every customer who comes into a pharmacy. But unfortunately, we can only distribute what we receive in time," says the Chamber of Pharmacists. By March 15 at the latest, the offer should be available nationwide throughout Austria.

Exclusions for pharmacy self-tests

Citizens who have opted out of ELGA (Elektronische Gesundheitsakte Österreich/Electronic Health Record Austria, a system for standardizing electronic communication between health care providers and for networking health data and information) altogether or opted out of the e-Medication service, as well as people who do not have health insurance, are excluded from the free Corona self-tests at pharmacies.

Around 300,000 of the 8.8 million e-card holders are missing out because they have opted out of the Electronic Health Record (ELGA).

Medical association president Thomas Szekeres speaks here of a two-class society and the disregard of patient rights.

The exclusion of people without health insurance is also incomprehensible.

The medical association is disillusioned about the work of the patient lawyers. These spoke up in the second, if they believe to discern individual misconduct, but when it comes to global patient rights, such as the distribution of free Covid-19 self-tests to all citizens, silence reigns.

Meanwhile, the Pensioners Association of Austria warned of a queuing chaos outside pharmacies. "It's just once again only well meant instead of well done." The government promises, as with the masks, with the tests and with the vaccinations, much, but with the conversion then the practicability is missing.

Meanwhile, the opposition party NEOS also calls for vaccination in pharmacies

The integration of the pharmacists into the national vaccination program could be a decisive turbo for faster vaccination coverage, especially in the pandemic, say the NEOS. These support the appropriate demand of the pharmacists therefore.

Even after the pandemic, the vaccination permit for pharmacists and the resulting uncomplicated access to vaccinations could lead to an increase in the generally very low vaccination rates in Austria, for example for influenza or TBE.

The time saved by working parents for themselves and their children, for example, is an argument in favor of rapid action.

We therefore hope that the government - which has also refused testing in pharmacies for far too long and now boasts about it - will relent in the next health committee and finally agree to our motion, which we will put on the agenda again.