Senator John F. Kerry's statement upon
introducing the Lifesaving Vaccine Technology Act (S. 1718)
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Lifesaving Vaccine Technology Act of 1999 with my friend and colleague from Illinois, Senator Durbin.
Mr. President, each year malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS kill more than 7 million people, disproportionately in the developing world. Each of these diseases is potentially preventable by vaccination.
A recent column in the Boston Globe by David Nyhan sums up the situation facing the developing world succinctly.
Tuberculosis causes more deaths than any other infectious disease, killing 3 million people annually. One hundred thousand children die from TB each year. The World Health Organization estimates that between now and 2020, `nearly one billion more people will be newly infected, 200 million people will get sick, and 70 million will die from tuberculosis, if control is not strengthened. Tuberculosis is not just an issue for some faraway countries; in the United States, more than 19,000 cases of tuberculosis are reported annually and increasingly we are seeing drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis in this country but especially in the states of the former Soviet Union where, according to one CDC doctor, an epidemic is taking place of `the worst situation for multidrug resistant tuberculosis ever documented in the world.' Other areas of the world, such as central India, Bangladesh, Latvia, Congo, Uganda, Peru are also experiencing near-epidemic tuberculosis crises.
According to the World Health Organization, malaria kills more than 2 million people every year, and the disease is an important public health problem in 90 countries inhabited by almost half of the world's population. Each year, one million children under the age of five die from complications associated with malaria. Again, Mr. President, malaria is a disease we tend to associate with foreign exotic lands, and overlook the fact that in this country, more than one thousand people are stricken by malaria each year. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases contend that `conventional control measures . . . appear increasingly inadequate. . . As a result of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, fewer tools to control malaria exist today than did 25 years ago.'
Last year, the human immunosuppressant virus took the lives of 2.5 million, of which more than 500,000 were children under the age of 15. In the United States, almost one million are currently living with HIV-disease and 40,000 are newly infected each year. In Zimbabwe and Botswana, as many as 25 percent of the adult population is infected with HIV. In Zambia, 72 percent of households contain a child orphaned by AIDS. South Africa, which was largely isolated from HIV during its apartheid years, is now home to 10 percent of the new infections in Africa, and in the country's most populous province, KwaZulu-Natal, one-third of adults are HIV-infected. Analysts claim that India is an AIDS disaster-in-waiting: half a million people in one of India's smallest rural states (Tamil Nadu) are HIV-positive, as are fifteen percent of the women in one of India's more populous states (Maharashtra).
While AIDS is entirely preventable in this country and abroad, and while behavioral interventions for HIV have proven effective at reducing infection rates, many factors, including political obstacles, insufficient prevention funding, forced sexual encounters, and the difficulty of maintaining safe behavior over a lifetime, mean that a vaccine will be required for control of this worldwide epidemic.
And, yet, Mr. President, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the United States, the home of the most innovative research and development in the world, are not working on vaccines to the world's largest killers. Market disincentives--especially the lack of a viable, cash-rich market--play against investment into these vaccines. Private-sector scientists and chief executive officers have a difficult time justifying to their boards an investment in developmental research toward these vaccines as long as other pharmaceutical research and development into products appealing to the developed world, like anti-depressants or Viagra, present more attractive investments.
This market failure and the need for incentives is shown most dramatically by last year's survey by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Of the 43 vaccine projects found to be in development by the survey not one was for HIV, malaria or tuberculosis. To find vaccines for the biggest infectious disease killers in the world, both the private and public sectors must be engaged in a bolder, more creative and dramatic way.
Mr. President, with that in mind, we are introducing the Lifesaving Vaccine Technology Act, which establishes an income tax credit for 30 percent of the qualified expenses for medical research related to the development of vaccines against widespread diseases like malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, which according to the World Health Organization, cause more than one million deaths annually.
This bill also declares that it is the sense of Congress that if the vaccine research credit is allowed to any corporation or shareholder of a corporation, the corporation should certify to the Secretary of the Treasury that, within one year after that vaccine is first licensed, the corporation will establish a good faith plan to maximize international access to high quality and affordable vaccines. In addition, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that the President and Federal agencies (including the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury) should work together in vigorous support of the creation and funding of a multi-lateral, international effort, such as a vaccine purchase fund, to accelerate the introduction of vaccines to which the vaccine research credit applies and of other priority vaccines into the poorest countries of the world. Lastly, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that flexible or differential pricing for vaccines, providing lowered prices for the poorest countries, is one of several valid strategies to accelerate the introduction of vaccines in developing countries.
Mr. President, this legislation has received the support of the American Public Health Association, the Global Health Council, AIDS Action, the AIDS Policy Center for Children, Youth and Families, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. And, I am especially pleased that the Clinton Administration has signaled their approval of our approach. At his most recent speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations, President Clinton committed `the United States to a concerted effort to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines for malaria, TB, AIDS and other diseases disproportionately affecting the developing world.'
This bill is highly targeted: it will cost relatively little to implement but would have a profound impact on America's response to international public health needs. And it would complement--certainly not supplant--current federal efforts at USAID, the NIH and other federal agencies to assist developing countries and to bolster vaccine research.
Mr. President, this legislation is a companion to a bipartisan bill introduced in the other body by my friend and colleague from San Francisco, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and 36 co-sponsors. Over the years, I have had the honor to work with the distinguished Congresswoman on various pieces of legislation. The nation is in her debt for her tenacity and her overwhelming sense of duty to country. Her constituents benefit daily from her leadership, and I am pleased to be associated with her again today.
I am hopeful that the positive response Congresswoman Pelosi has found in the other body is replicated in the Senate and that our colleagues join the Senator from Illinois, Senator Durbin, and I in passing the Lifesaving Vaccine Technology Act as quickly as possible.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Nyhan column, an article which appeared in the Albany Times-Union about the market difficulties of developing an AIDS vaccine, and a Congressional Research Service study of the bill be printed in the Record.