Claim: The Biden Administration has awarded a $1.3 billion contract to iHealth Lab to create millions of free at-home COVID-19 tests. IHealth Lab is owned by a Chinese company. Critics have said that the contract enriches China, and that the tests are unsafe and inaccurate because they are made in China.
Rating: This claim is FALSE. The U.S. government did not exclusively partner with iHealth Lab Inc. to provide COVID tests. It actually partnered with over 60 manufacturers from around the world in order to meet rising demand for free tests. The iHealth Lab tests have also been vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for public use. In addition, a $1.3 billion contract is not a significant gain to the Chinese economy, which is $14.72 trillion.
In December 2021, President Joe Biden vowed to provide 500 million free at-home COVID-19 tests, in order to combat the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In order to acquire enough tests to distribute to the American public, the Biden administration awarded a $1.3 billion contract to iHealth Lab Inc., located in California, to manufacture millions of COVID-19 tests. IHealth Lab’s parent company is Andon Health Co., Ltd, a Chinese institution.
Since then, there have been claims circulating on social media saying that the American government is enriching the Chinese government with this particular contract. Congress member Michael Waltz, who is Republican and from Florida, described the contract as “paying the arsonist for helping put out the fire,” he said to the Washington Free Beacon.
However, this claim is misleading for two major reasons: The U.S. government did not exclusively partner with iHealth Lab Inc., and a $1.3 billion contract does not grant any significant gain to the Chinese economy.
Due to rising demand for COVID-19 test kits that could be used at home, the U.S. government had to work with a number of manufacturers from all over the world to secure enough test kits for the American public.
One large company was Abbott Laboratories (based in Illinois), which was entrusted with a $306-million deal to supply at-home COVID-19 tests. Abbott creates the popular at-home test called BinaxNOW.
Other notable manufacturers who are supporting Biden’s 500-million-tests pledge are OraSure Technologies (based in Pennsylvania) and Quidel Corp. (based in California) — both manufacture tests in the U.S. They were awarded $554.6 million worth and $636 million for their test kits, respectively. The government is also working with international manufacturers in Germany and South Korea.
In total, the federal government will spend $4 billion to procure 500 million tests.
It is true that the largest single contract awarded by the Biden Administration is to iHealth. But according to the New York Times, other manufacturers were creating tests for other countries, while iHealth was only focused on the American market. And when taken cumulatively, the Biden administration has awarded more contracts to companies that manufacture their COVID-19 tests in the United States.
Are the iHealth tests safe?
The claim that because the iHealth tests are made in China, it is unsafe is also FALSE. The iHealth tests were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2021. For a list of current COVID-19 at-home tests that the FDA says are safe to use, visit the FDA’s website.
All of the contracts purchased by the Biden administration are also vetted by the Department of Defense, which oversees the American military.
Will the iHealth contract enrich China?
It is also FALSE that a $1.3 billion contract will enrich China. China’s gross domestic product in 2020 was $14.72 trillion. So $1.3 billion is just a small fraction of the Chinese economy.
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, while the Biden Administration awarded a contract to China, the administration is working to award more contracts to American manufacturers.
“Our objective continues to be to increase U.S. manufacturing capacity of tests,” said Psaki in a press briefing. “We also needed to meet a need that we had in this country for more tests. And a shortage of tests and the understandable demand from people across this country to get tests and make them free and accessible … required us purchasing some of those tests from China in order to meet that demand. But that doesn’t change our commitment to increasing our U.S. manufacturing to ensure that we will be able to meet that demand with products made here in the United States.”
Every household can now order four free at-home COVID-19 tests at COVIDtests.gov. The Biden administration has also mandated that health insurance companies must cover the costs of COVID-19 at-home tests. Contact your insurance provider for information on how to receive a free at-home COVID-19 test.