As a new COVID-19 booster rolls out, are expired test kits still good?

Doctors say just because older COVID-19 test kits may have expired, it doesn’t mean you can’t use them.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 3:49 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The updated COVID-19 vaccine is now hitting the shelves at pharmacies around Arizona after the FDA and CDC approved the new shots aimed at fighting the new variant going around.

Many Arizonans still have COVID-19 home test kits lying around that they obtained for free during the height of the pandemic. Now as COVID-19 infections are rising and the flu along with RSV season gets underway, doctors say there are some things you need to look for when using one of those old tests.

Are expired COVID-19 at-home antigen tests still good?

Jesse Bracamonte is a family medicine doctor at Mayo Clinic. Many of his patients have asked if those older testing kits will still work with the latest COVID-19 virus mutations. “The COVID-19 testing kits did take into account some variation of genetic mutations of COVID, so as long as they are kept at room temperature and not exposed to the elements, they should be good to use,” said Dr. Bracamonte.

So far this month, nearly 6,000 people tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 3,000 cases were reported last week, compared to more than 4,000 the week prior, according to the Arizona Department of Health. However, these numbers do not reflect the countless numbers of at-home antigen tests by the public. With the end of the public health emergency, the more accurate PCR-based lab tests were no longer paid for by the government. “In some cases, people do come in, and if they haven’t tested, we are able to do PCR testing in the office and send that out to the lab and get that tested as well,” he said.

Doctor Bracamonte says just because older COVID-19 test kits may have expired, it doesn’t mean you can’t use them. “You can look on the FDA website, put in the lock number, and see if there is an extension on your kit,” he said.

What to know about the latest COVID-19 vaccine

Although it may seem early, health officials say now is the time to get vaccinated ahead of the holidays. “We have the COVID-19 vaccine in stock at most of our locations, it’s going to be sent on a rolling basis. So all of our stores, all 9,000 locations, will have that in the next couple of days,” said Nicole Henry, Pharmacist and District Leader for CVS Health.

If you’re worried about coverage, Henry says it is covered by most insurances. But on the off chance it’s not, there are options. “We are partnering with the CDC bridge access program, patients can sign up, and that’ll bring their co-pay right back down to zero dollars,” she said.

Other pharmacies like Fry’s, Safeway, Walmart, and Costco are saying they’re awaiting shipments of the vaccine and will offer appointments once the updated vaccine arrives at their pharmacies. Officials say most pharmacies should have the vaccines by the end of September.

When are you considered “up to date?”

According to the CDC, everyone aged 5 years and older should get 1 updated COVID-19 vaccine, at least two months after getting the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. You’re considered up-to-date if you’ve received 1 dose of the latest vaccine available.

MORE: CDC COVID-19 vaccine latest guidance

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