By Mark Lacy, CEO and Founder of Benchmark Research
“This is a wartime effort.” These were the words of President Joe Biden just 5 days in on the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The remark, in reference to his National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness issued on inauguration day, struck me as notable, not only for its boldness from a man not inclined to speak in hyperbole, but also as an echo through history.
From 1984 to 1989, I served as a special assistant to the secretary of transportation under President Reagan. In a bold and quite unexpected move on Reagan’s part, on November 18, 1988, he issued Executive Order 12656 on the Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities, calling upon the Defense Production Act. An idea that appears several times in that document is the notion of coordinating “with state and local government agencies and other organizations, including private-sector organizations.”
President Biden—like Reagan and many others before him—understands that the only way to overcome a colossal, common enemy of the American people is together. On January 26 in the White House State Dining Room, he went on to say “More than 400,000 Americans have already died—more than all the Americans who died in World War II. This is a wartime undertaking. And as such, I directed the team to be ready to exercise all the authorities I have under the Defense Production Act and expedite these vaccines.”
After leaving the White House, I went on to found Benchmark Research, which 23 years later has become an industry leader in clinical research, conducting more than 1,000 trials to study vaccines with over 40,000 participants. With these clinical trial participants, we have made a substantial impact on vaccine development and the future health of communities throughout the country. As examples, we have investigated vaccines for H1N1 influenza during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and Ebola virus during the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic.
Last year, we were called on to partner in Operation Warp Speed, which is a public–private partnership initiated by the U.S. government, leading Benchmark Research to play a meaningful role in finding a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. The doctors who administer the trials at Benchmark Research and I have spoken publicly about the vaccine trials throughout the pandemic to help keep the public informed every step of the way.
But make no mistake, our communities and our industry still have a big fight ahead.
As COVID-19 and new variants continue to spread throughout the United States and several parts of the world—killing and debilitating thousands per day in our nation alone—there are many populations such as minors under the age of 18 for whom the vaccine candidates are just beginning clinical trials. And you have likely read about the struggle to get enough of the approved vaccines to the people who need them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.96 percent of the U.S. population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 6.53 percent have been fully vaccinated. As someone working in the highly regulated clinical trial research space, I can tell you this has been a thorough and safe process in which you should feel very confident. But the plain facts tell us that we are going to need massive collaboration to have a full spectrum of populations participating and enough types of vaccines available to keep up with demand.
That’s why I am calling on federal, state, county and city officials along with faith leaders, business owners, nonprofits, educational institutions and private citizens to commit to setting aside differences to help one another meet the challenges of our moment by promoting COVID-19 vaccine education and encouraging those who qualify to be a part of a clinical trial so we can move forward as quickly as is safe.
I have been humbled as thousands of residents across the eight communities where we have clinics have stepped up to our clinics and those of our colleagues to be a part of history. I know that if we can all join the fight, we can win this war unlike any other.
Mark Lacy is the CEO and founder of Benchmark Research with clinics operating in Austin, Fort Worth, San Angelo, San Antonio, New Orleans, North Shore, Sacramento and the Los Angeles are. Learn more at www.benchmarkresearch.net/faqs/
Note that views expressed in this opinion article are the writer’s and not necessarily those of TrialSite News LLC.