UBC Launches COVID-19 rapid testing clinic for students, others on campus

UBC Nursing led team tapped by Health Canada to evaluate a new COVID-19 self-screening test

28 May 2021

UBC students living in residence and other select groups living and working on the Vancouver campus this summer will be able to access a new COVID-19 self-testing clinic, which opened May 26 on the third floor of the Orchard Commons student residence.

The UBC clinical and research lead Dr. Sabrina Wong, a UBC Nursing and Centre for Health Services and Policy Research professor, is optimistic that clinical trials of self-testing kits like the new Roche SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Nasal Test are key to providing more tools to help British Columbia re-open safely.

“UBC Nursing faculty, graduate and undergraduate students are collaborating with colleagues in public health, virology and other UBC departments to be able to offer this screening to the UBC community,” explained Dr. Wong. Members of the UBC School of Nursing team include Dr. Kirsten Haase, Dr. Emmanuela Ojukwu, Frances Affleck, nursing students Erica Tobias and Innocent Ndateba, and staff member Klara Hill.

All student housing residents, plus critical service employees, like custodial and campus security staff, as well as other students already on campus, such as varsity athletes, and those attending select in-person classes, including faculty members, are eligible for screening. Participants must be asymptomatic and over 16 years of age.

The rapid testing research site is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9am-12:30pm and 2pm-4:30pm and Fridays between 9am-2pm between May 26 and August 20, 2021. Eligible participants are encouraged to revisit the clinic on a weekly basis to allow for regular rapid testing. Online appointment bookings will be possible through Thrive Health. In addition to enjoying tasty snacks while waiting for their results, the first 700 research participants will receive a $5 Starbucks or Tim Hortons Gift Card.

As part of the study, participants will be asked to give themselves the test as well as have a second test administered by a registered nurse. Identical results from both tests, or congruence, will demonstrate that the test can be successfully self-administered. Clinic attendees will also be asked to interpret their own test results.   

“It’s a little like reading a pregnancy test,” said Dr. Wong. “One bar is negative, and two bars means there is a high likelihood of being positive for COVID-19. This screening kit is designed to be self-administered. One of the things we are testing is whether that works in the real world.”

Over the course of the summer the research team will also be evaluating the sensitivity of the test kits by comparing self-administered test results with the gold standard laboratory tests to assess the kits for potential false-positive and false-negative results.

This summer clinic is being launched on the heels of an earlier study by Dr. Wong and her team of the BD Veritor Rapid SARS‑CoV‑2 antigen test. The spring pilot was only available to students and staff living or working in select student residences between February to April 2021.

"Students were testing to protect themselves and those around them," explained Dr. Wong. "It's fast, it's easy, and it allowed us to break the chains of transmission sooner."

The first study provided rapid screening test to over 1,100 unique individuals. The nasal swab was collected by UBC Nursing students as part of their public health rotation with training and supervision provided by UBC School of Nursing faculty. The pilot project identified a number of asymptomatic positive cases early, which helped interrupt further transmission.

“The UBC School of Nursing was quick to mobilize faculty, staff, and students for both of these COVID-19 testing studies,” said Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Director and professor of the UBC School of Nursing. “This ongoing collaborative effort really embodies UBC’s Campus as a Living Laboratory philosophy to integrate operational, educational, and research expertise to swiftly respond to societal challenges.”

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UBC News Release