[OPINION] Voters backed vaccines and biopharmaceutical innovation. Leaders must deliver

by William Wong

AS both a health care patient and former restaurant owner, I was relieved to hear positive news about three different COVID-19 vaccines in the late stages of their clinical trials. It’s wonderful to know that effectiveness may exceed 90 percent and emergency use authorizations could mean inoculations start reaching our communities by 2021.

Such rapid advances are precisely the shot in the arm Las Vegas restaurant owners need to survive. Our city has already lost too many eateries that once anchored our neighborhoods and provided unique character, jobs, and social opportunities.

Nearly all restaurants operate on razor-thin margins, so even slight economic hiccoughs can strain budgets. The lockdowns from March and April, combined with a lackluster recovery and reluctance by high-risk individuals and others to eat out, mean that bars and bistros are barely making ends meet.

Being of Asian heritage, I’m especially concerned about the impacts on Asian-American businesses. Nevadans saw early on that a misunderstanding about the novel coronavirus caused some customers to avoid Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian restaurants, as well as my previous franchise, the first and still only Asian-American owned McDonald’s in Nevada.

A vaccine would transform our prospects, enabling customers to return to tourist and entertainment venues of all types. Even the hope that a vaccine may be coming soon could enough to help business owners hang on a little longer.

Of course, I’m also concerned about my own health. I’m a diabetic and this underlying condition puts me at increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, hospitalization, and worse. I will feel more confident once I receive a vaccine to safeguard against these outcomes.

For all of these reasons, vaccines and other biopharmaceutical innovations were at the top of my list when I entered the polling booth earlier this month. I had evaluated each candidate, especially those vying for federal office, based on how strongly they support biopharmaceutical advancement. In such a close race, I have no doubt that my vote and those of other concerned patients made a difference.

Now it’s time for the leaders we selected to deliver. The progress we’ve seen on vaccines, as well as on COVID-19 therapeutics, was made possible by a strong, free market system in which investments in research are rewarded. Nevadans must insist that such an environment continue so that promising coronavirus vaccine development reaches a successful conclusion and that treatments, therapies, and cures for other diseases, including diabetes, follow a similar path.

Eradicating disease would be mankind’s greatest achievement, with untold benefits for quality of life and reduced health care spending. That makes the issue a priority for me, not just in a single election but in every election for the rest of my lifetime. As elected representatives consider health care policy, I hope they will take into account how strongly voters back biopharmaceutical treatments and cures, now during COVID-19 and in the future.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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William Wong is currently the director of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.

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