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28 Nov 2021

'Idiotic messaging' - American immunologist slams antigen testing advice from Donnelly

'Idiotic messaging' - American immunologist slams antigen testing advice from Donnelly

'Idiotic messaging' - American immunologist slams antigen testing advice from Donnelly

A prominent American immunologist has criticised antigen testing guidelines posted by Ireland's Minister for Health. 

Commenting through Twitter, Dr Michael Mina of Harvard University took issue with a post made by Minister Stephen Donnelly, calling it "honestly some of the most idiotic messaging I’ve seen this entire pandemic". 

The post in question featured advice on the use of antigen tests, with text stating "DO NOT USE AN ANTIGEN TEST. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 get a PCR test and isolate". 

Dr Mina commented on the post, stating, "Come on Ireland - seriously? Surely, you can do better" before questioning the identity of the person advising Minister Donnelly. 

According to the doctor, who has been advocating for the use of rapid tests since the beginning of the pandemic, the advice "doesn't make sense biologically or epidemiologically". 

Minister Donnelly posted the message yesterday (November 23rd) and included a comment re-iterating the contents of the post. He wrote: "Antigen tests should only be used by those who are asymptomatic. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, do not use an antigen test. Self-isolate and get a PCR test." 

The minister also received criticism from Irish Twitter users engaging with the post, with several people questioning whether it was official government advice due to the presence of the Fianna Fáil party logo. 

Dr Mina previously spoke to an Oireachtas committee in June this year encouraging the use of rapid tests, which he said identified people at their most infectious. 

Speaking to the Joint Committee on Rapid Antigen Testing in relation to aviation and travel, Dr Mina said, "These tests can absolutely keep spread down to an absolute minimum." 

He said, "What I really want the take-home message to be is these tests are very accurate. If you are concerned about limiting transmission, if you're trying to diagnose somebody who has symptoms because of Covid, use a PCR test. But if you're trying to use a test in a way to limit spread, then a rapid test - whether its an antigen test or rapid molecular test, both of those are going to be available in the future - the speed is much more important if your goal is to limit spread." 

The Chairman of the committee, Kieran O'Donnell, thanked Dr Mina for his contribution and stated he had "encapsulated in a medically-underpinned but easy to understand way the difference between antigen and PCR testing".

He said, "It is the first time it has been explained in a way that I think the ordinary person can understand. Antigen testing has a vital role to play." 

Minister Donnelly had not replied to Dr Mina's comments at time of posting. 

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