COVID-19 test vending machines begin appearing on some college campuses

UCLA is one campus beginning to offer vending machines with COVID-19 tests. Logan Chin

COVID-19 testing continues to become more accessible to citizens through a variety of means. Some college students across California now have the option to get COVID tests available 24/7 on campuses. These tests are appearing in vending machines, mainly on campuses within the University of California system.

The vending machines’ most recent debut has been at UCLA. The machines also began appearing at UC San Diego and San Diego State University in response to the return of students to in-person instruction at the three campuses.

Throughout the pandemic, the UC and CSU systems have implemented strict regulations as a result of the Omicron variant to keep students safe, including requiring proof of vaccination to return to campus. Regular testing is also encouraged to keep spread minimal. 

“Anyone with an active BruinCard can receive up to two self-test kits each week using the vending machines available on campus,” said UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center on its website. “BruinCards automatically receive a complimentary $2 credit on a weekly basis to be used to purchase COVID-19 tests from these dedicated machines. Credits will not be valid at any other vending machines or for any other use.”

Once students use the tests from the vending machines, they can drop the specimens into collection bins located beside the vending machines for evaluation.

The rollout of vending machines for COVID-19 testing kits to all students began early this semester. UCLA’s return of students to campus this year was welcomed with more than 15 testing vending machines around the campus for students and employees.

The technology behind these testing kits originated from the UCLA Health Department called SwabSeq, a technology that is quicker than PCR tests and still as effective. The tests received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in November 2020 with 24-hour turnaround test results upon lab arrival.

“The machines make me feel safer because I know that we have access to tests and don’t have to go off campus to look for COVID testing locations,” said Eliobany Perez, junior political science major at UCLA. “I think the vending machines are a great way to make COVID testing more accessible. Students know where to find them and they’re free.”

Perez said that she has not used the vending machines yet because dorms around UCLA supply students with testing kits at their front desk, but she frequently sees students using them around campus.

“I do think more colleges should begin to implement them because it would encourage more students to test regularly because they know that they are available to them,” Perez said.

Joshua Smith, freshman political science and philosophy double major, said he thinks it would be beneficial for California Baptist University to place COVID test vending machines on campus.

“COVID is dangerous, and its variants are even more contagious than before, so timing is everything,” Smith said. “It’s in the best interest for the university to provide health services to their students and place COVID vending machines on campus that can be accessible to anyone.”

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