By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell
While proper hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, social distancing, testing, and therapeutics are all valid and useful measures in the battle against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a safe, effective vaccine is the only path to normal. It is the ultimate game-changer. As one reader recently wrote to The Buffalo News, “Without a COVID-19 vaccine, there is no Hollywood ending.”
It certainly won’t be easy. In general, over 90% of vaccine candidates fail, and vaccines usually take several years, not months, to develop. Despite 33 attempts at a vaccine for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which spread worldwide in a few months from China in 2002, no SARS vaccine exists today.
Similarly, for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which started in Jordan in April 2012 and spread to a total of 27 countries, all 13 vaccine candidates to date have failed.
As of this writing, the novel coronavirus has infected 5.6 million persons and caused some 350 thousand deaths across over 200 countries. It is highly transmissible—spread by even asymptomatic individuals—and it is “wily,” as it has mutated over a dozen times. In short, it constitutes an epochal challenge for all of humankind.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic about the chances for successful development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The American Medical Association (AMA) today announced that the CPT Editorial Panel approved a new addition to the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set that will help streamline data-driven resource and allocation planning in the battle against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the United States.
“In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CPT Editorial Panel has expedited approval of a unique CPT code to report laboratory testing services that diagnose the presence of the novel coronavirus,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “The new CPT code assigned to the test for the novel coronavirus provides analytical advantages for tracking, allocating and optimizing resources as testing ramps up in the United States.”
For quick reference, the new Category I CPT code and long descriptor are:
87635 — Infectious agent detection by nucleic acid (DNA or RNA); severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), amplified probe technique
The code is effective immediately for use as the industry standard for reporting of tests for the novel coronavirus across the nation’s health care system. In addition to the long descriptor, CPT code 87635 has short and medium descriptors that can be accessed on the AMA website.
The CPT Editorial Panel, the independent body convened by the AMA with sole authority to manage revisions to the CPT code set, expedited the code development process for the novel coronavirus test. Development, review and approval of the new CPT code involved broad input from practicing physicians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts.
The AMA continues to invest in resources that keep physicians informed of the CDC’s guidance and updates, including the recent launch of the AMA’s Physician’s Guide to COVID-19, a quick-start reference to help physicians and their practices prepare for the pandemic. This is an expanded, downloadable and shareable version of resources available on the AMA’s COVID-19 resource center for physicians. Additionally, the AMA’s JAMA Network™ has a comprehensive overview of the novel coronavirus—including epidemiology, infection control and prevention recommendations—available on its JN Learning website.