You Can Now Get Free COVID-19 and Flu Tests and Treatments at Home

<p>Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images</p>

Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. adults can now access free tests to detect influenza and COVID-19 with one sample.

  • If you test positive for either disease, regardless of where you took the test, you can get a free prescription for medications mailed to you or delivered to a nearby pharmacy.

  • The program intends to make sure people with respiratory infections can take antiviral treatments at the right time to speed their recovery.

You can now access free at-home testing and treatment for COVID-19 and flu through a government program that expanded nationwide this week.

The National Institutes of Health teamed up with the digital health company eMed and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to improve COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The program launched as a pilot in select areas of the United States in January. It will now include testing and treatment for flu and will be available in all parts of the U.S., according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health on Wednesday.

Anyone with a positive COVID-19 or flu test, regardless of whether they took the test through the program, can request a free telehealth consultation. A provider may then prescribe you an antiviral treatment. You can request to have it mailed to you overnight or delivered to a nearby pharmacy for pick up.

“With the Home Test to Treat program, even patients in highly rural areas or with no access to a primary care physician can get enrolled in the program and, if medically indicated, have a prescription for an antiviral waiting for them at their nearest pharmacy within hours, or a prescription waiting for them on their front doorstep within a single day,” Michael Mina, MD, PhD, chief science officer at the digital health company eMed, said in an email.

While any adult can request telehealth services, only people who are uninsured or are on a government healthcare plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid, can request a free test be mailed to their home. Those people don’t need to be experiencing symptoms to ask for a test.

The program uses Pfizer’s Lucira at-home test, which can detect three viruses at the same time—COVID-19, Influenza A, and Influenza B. Lucira is a molecular test, which means it works like a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, rather than the antigen tests that are most common for at-home testing.

“During this respiratory virus season, the symptoms of COVID, flu, and other viruses are very similar,” Mina said. “This is primarily because the symptoms are largely a reflection of our body attempting to fight off the virus. This means that symptoms alone are not enough to know what someone is infected with. Knowing which it is is essential for appropriate treatment decisions.”

Antivirals for flu and COVID-19 must often be taken early in the course of the illness to be effective. The goal of the program, Mina said, is to help people get a diagnosis and treatment in a matter of hours, not days.

Paxlovid, the most common antiviral treatment for COVID-19, must be taken within five days of developing symptoms. Flu antivirals, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) and Relenza (zanamivir), work when taken within two days of symptom onset.

COVID-19 test results are less monitored now compared to earlier in the pandemic, leaving public health experts with less data to understand how the virus is spreading. However, CDC data show an increase of 17% in hospital admissions and 25% in deaths from COVID-19 in the most recent week.

What This Means for You

You can register for the free test to treat program online at

Read the original article on Verywell Health.