by Raul Lopez
Socialist countries and dictatorships rarely lead the way on innovation and solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. COVID-19 is just the latest example.
I should know. As a Cuban refugee, my family and I escaped an oppressive communist regime that seized private property and lashed out at dissenters.
In the coming months, it will become even clearer that the solutions needed to effectively combat COVID will come not come from big government, but instead from the private sector.
Specifically, pharmaceutical companies and the collective healthcare and scientific community will lead the charge putting all their knowledge, efforts and capital behind finding effective treatments. Additionally, we can expect to see these groups push for increased accurate COVID-19 testing – including antibody tests – and eventually vaccines.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a role for local government. But it will mean more of state governments encouraging the power of the private sector especially when it comes to testing. The good news is that according to Harvard University, Tennessee is leading the nation in testing with more than double Harvard’s recommended daily testing numbers. This is mainly due to the proactive leadership of Gov. Bill Lee and his partnership with the private sector.
It’s important to point out that the five-minute test came not from the government, but from a private sector pharmaceutical company: Abbott Laboratories. Gilead, Amgen, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson as well as other pharmaceutical companies working on tests, therapeutics and vaccines. Gilead is ramping up production of promising treatments and is currently donating supplies to hospitals. AstraZeneca is partnering with Oxford University on a potential vaccine. And, Sanofi, Pfizer and many others are working on other potential vaccines.
Unfortunately, this type of innovation is like swimming upstream as the FDA and other federal agencies can impose onerous and burdensome regulations. The good news is that in response to COVID-19, we’ve seen the government reduce the regulatory burden without compromising public safety. Our friends at Americans for Tax Reform have a list of 565 regulations (and counting) that governments waived to help fight COVID-19. In fact, it’s very likely most if not all of these regulations were never needed in the first place and simply stifle private sector innovation and advancement.
The Trump administration has done a great job helping accelerate the development of COVID-19 treatments through new collaborations with the private sector, standardizing methods and models, and increasing access to high-level laboratory facilities.
While all of this is focused on our public health – discovering effective therapeutics, enhanced testing and ultimately an effective vaccine are critical to our state, country and global economies.
It is important to test who actively has COVID-19, who previously had COVID-19 through effective antibody tests and to develop effective vaccines – all critical for the health of everyone and also for the economic recovery of the country. We cannot keep the economy stifled in the long-term. We will need increased testing, but we also need to let the free-market and private enterprise produce as many cures, treatments and vaccines as possible.
The government can help facilitate collaboration between the biotech companies and also streamline the research through removing unnecessary barriers and regulations. However, government should not be picking winners and losers.
More than 300 clinical trials are underway for drugs including antivirals which help prevent the virus from reproducing and more than 70 potential vaccines are currently being researched.
Companies are working together along with the FDA to ensure the public’s safety and the efficacy of the drugs. These companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money on research and capital expenditures in order to find and produce treatments and cures.
This is something the federal government could never do. It’s up to America’s private sector to lead the way in finding treatments, tests and ultimately a vaccine. Government can help by encouraging private sector innovation, lessening unnecessary government regulation and by keeping America’s economy the greatest free market in the world. America’s pharmaceutical companies will lead the way in finding a cure for COVID-19 – which will save millions of lives and ultimately help restore the global economy.
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Raul Lopez serves as Executive Director for Latinos for Tennessee.
Photo “Raul Lopez” by The Beacon Center of Tennessee.