Most affordable COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test now available

UNICEF Supply Division introduces new COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test to supply portfolio at significantly lower cost of existing options.

22 April 2021
A young boy has his sample taken from his nose using a swab for COVID-19 testing in Bahri - Shambat Square, Sudan, in March 2021.

The early and accurate detection of COVID-19 is critical to allow countries to trace and control the spread of the virus.  

Since the start of the pandemic, labs around the world have been using molecular PCR tests to detect the virus that causes COVID-19. While these provide an almost definitive result, they require laboratory infrastructure and can take several days to return a result.  

Rapid diagnostic tests are both cheaper and faster, providing a result within 15 to 30 minutes.  

To support countries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has introduced a new and record low-cost rapid antigen test for COVID-19 diagnosis into the UNICEF product procurement list.

Approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use on 17 March 2021, the test is the third COVID-19 rapid antigen test now available through the UNICEF Supply Catalogue.

UNICEF and partners worked rapidly with test manufactures to make the product available for procurement at the most affordable price on the market. The new test is now available for $2.55 per test – for comparison, other rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 are currently available for $4.00 and $4.20 per test.  

“With many countries procuring rapid tests in the millions, this creates significant savings that will be essential as they respond to the pandemic,” says Tatsiana Ptashnik, Contracts Manager with UNICEF Supply Division’s Health Technology Centre.

“The less budget countries need for diagnostics the more resources they can direct to vaccines or essential medical equipment for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, saving more lives.”

 In February 2021, a healthcare worker at a COVID-19 rapid testing site in Lilongwe, Malawi.
In February 2021, a healthcare worker at a COVID-19 rapid testing site in Lilongwe, Malawi. Rapid tests are an important tool to expand access to testing and decrease delays in diagnosis.

Making the tests available for procurement quickly was critical to help support countries. While the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility)  has delivered the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 100 countries, many countries are just starting their vaccination campaigns and have a long road ahead.  

“Until the majority of a population is protected, the diagnostic needs of countries remain extremely high,” says Tatsiana. “These rapids tests, along with the other diagnostic tools available, will help countries and territories in their fight against COVID-19 as they work to control the spread.”

The new, quality-assured and low-cost rapid diagnostic test was able to be introduced into the UNICEF Supply Catalogue and quickly operationalized through the concerted efforts of Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) partners, with UNICEF leveraging its expertise and existing relationships with suppliers.

“As soon as the new test was listed for emergency use, UNICEF reached out to the manufacturer and started negotiating,” says Tatsiana.

The new rapid antigen diagnostic test for COVID-19 diagnosis is now available for procurement, and more antigen diagnostic testing products will be added as they become available.

UNICEF continues to support low- and lower middle-income countries to access COVID-19 health supplies, including vital tests, treatments and vaccines.


Technical information about the diagnostic tests: