Amazon launches online pharmacy; COVID-19 test supplies strained — 5 supply chain updates

As the holiday season approaches, promising vaccine news from drugmakers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna has been clouded by soaring COVID-19 case numbers. More than 187,000 new infections were recorded Nov. 19 in the U.S., putting continued strain on the healthcare supply chain.

Five more healthcare supply chain updates:

1. U.S. labs could soon see delays in processing diagnostic COVID-19 tests as infection numbers surge around the country, Politico reported Nov. 12. Methods used to conserve testing supplies, such as pooled testing, are becoming less feasible as positivity rates climb. This month, the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in the U.S. rose 12.5 percent in a single week.

2. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine candidate produces a strong immune response in older adults at high risk of severe illness if they contract the virus, according to phase 2 trial results published Nov. 18 in The Lancet. The trial involved 560 healthy volunteers, and results showed the vaccine prompted a response to COVID-19 within 14 days of the first dose. It produced a similar immune response among adults of all ages.

3. The FDA issued an emergency authorization for the first at-home COVID-19 test that can deliver results in less than 30 minutes. The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular single-use test that uses a self-collected nasal swab. People 14 and older can give the test to themselves, but healthcare providers must administer it to those under 14. The prescription-only tests can return results in 30 minutes or less.

4. Pfizer will seek FDA emergency use authorization for its vaccine on Nov. 20, The New York Times reported. If approved, some Americans may be able to receive a vaccine by mid-December. On Nov. 18, Pfizer and BioNTech said their experimental vaccine was safe and 95 percent effective. Pfizer has already begun to pilot distribution programs for its vaccine in Texas, Tennessee, Rhode Island and New Mexico, states chosen for their diversity in size, population and infrastructure.

5. Amazon launched an online pharmacy allowing patients to purchase their prescriptions through the retail giant's website. Through Amazon Pharmacy, patients can add their insurance information and manage prescriptions. Amazon Prime members receive free two-day delivery of their medications, as well as up to 80 percent off generic drugs and 40 percent off brand-name drugs when paying without insurance.

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