Unauthorized Covid saliva test kits sell out online

By Le Cam   December 25, 2021 | 04:00 am PT
Online sellers have been reporting good sales of rapid saliva test kits to detect coronavirus infection, though Vietnam has yet to approve the product.

Thuy Trang, 29, in Bien Hoa Town of Dong Nai Province, has just bought a saliva test kit "made in Germany" as introduced by an online seller at VND600,000 ($26) per box of five kits.

"I'm very scared when taking nasal swabs - every time I must have my swab samples taken for Covid-19 screening, it is very stressful."

"A member of my family has just been infected and I must be tested repeatedly. Therefore I have decided to switch to the saliva test kits."

As instructed by the seller, all Trang needs to do is collect her saliva right after she wakes up in the morning before washing her mouth or drinking water.

Nguyen Thi Hien, 37, in Ho Chi Minh City's Thu Duc City, has also bought saliva test kits for her family to use at home. The kits were sold to her at VND90,000 apiece when she bought a set of five.

Hien said there are children and elderly people in her family who are afraid of having their nasal swabs taken for testing.

She said buying saliva test kits is very easy. All she had to do is message the seller to place the order and that in about 15 minutes, receive the delivery. As for instructions, there is a tutorial video on how to use the kit.

"All sellers claim their saliva kits are quality products that are genuinely imported, but they can't provide licenses or proof to show the products' origins from either Germany or the U.S. as stated," Hien said.

A set of Covid-19 saliva test kit sold online. Photo by VnExpress

A set of Covid-19 saliva test kit sold online. Photo by VnExpress

These days, saliva test kits are sold on many sites in Vietnam with prices ranging from VND60,000 to several hundred thousand dong apiece.

For example, a test kit originating from China is sold at VND60,000-105,000 each, with those buying a whole box of 20 kits can pay VND62,0000-75,000 per kit, which is cheaper than test kits using nasal swabs currently sold at VND100,000-200,000 per kit on the market.

Saliva test kits that are said to come from the U.S. and Germany cost more, at VND120,000-150,000 per kit on average.

A seller told VnExpress the product has been "selling out" but refused to share revenue and profit figures.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization to Yale School of Public Health for its saliva Covid-19 diagnostic test but it was not until June this year that the FDA granted pharmaceutical firm Diabetomics emergency use authorization for its saliva kit.

Singapore and Japan have also used the saliva test kit.

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health has just approved 16 types of rapid test kits using nasal swab samples and one type of saliva kit, called Antigen Rapid W-AgS04-B20 produced by a Chinese company in Wuhan.

However, currently, most hospitals, medical centers, and testing points prefer using nasal test kits as doctors said "the accuracy of saliva test depends way too much on the behavior of the person being tested and could easily produce the wrong results."

"For saliva test kits, it is strictly requested that the person being tested does not eat or drink at least one hour before samples are taken," said Dang Van Thanh, general director of Saigon Hospital.

Truong Huu Khanh, a consultant with the infectious and neurological diseases department at the city's Children's Hospital No. 1, said "the saliva test is as effective as the nasal test but it is necessary to choose a reputable test kit that has clear origins and strictly follows the instructions when in use."

Nguyen Tu Hieu, deputy director of the Department of Medical Equipment and Medical Works under the Health Ministry, recommended people "should choose test kits included in the list approved by the Ministry of Health to ensure quality."

Le Quoc Hung, head of the Department of Tropical Diseases at HCMC’s Cho Ray Hospital, said only the PCR test is 100 percent accurate and could be used to diagnose Covid-19 and that rapid test kits are only for the purpose of screening.

Doctor Hung said from his own experience working in the infectious disease department, nasal test kits produce results with an accuracy of 85 percent while saliva tests hit 65-70 percent.

Tang Chi Thuong, director of the HCMC’s Department of Health, said "test kits using saliva and nasal samples produce similar results."

People who are sensitive and have nosebleeds, allergic reactions, or children can use a saliva test kit for screening purposes before attending medical facilities for further tests.

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