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U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Millennium Vaccine Initiative: Public Statement by the President, 2 March 2000

The following is a transcript of remarks made by President Clinton at a meeting on the President’s Millennium Vaccine Initiative at the White House, Washington, D.C., on 2 March, 2000:

The Cabinet Room 12:55 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: "Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, I have a very distinguished group of leaders here in the White House today, and I thank them all for coming — leaders of the international organizations concerned with the health of people throughout the world; Minister of Health from Uganda; the leaders of the pharmaceutical industry and biotech industry and the foundation community in our country who are profoundly interested in joining forces to fight against diseases that kill both people and progress in the world’s poorest countries. Diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria, each of which claim over a million lives a year, and others as well.

We agreed that the solution must include the development and the delivery of effective vaccines. That’s how we got rid of small pox and come close to eliminating polio. So today we’re beginning a partnership to eradicate the leading infectious killers of our time, speeding the delivery of existing vaccines and getting to the heart of the problem — the lack of incentives for private industry to invest in new vaccines for people who simply can’t afford to buy them.

I have attempted to put a comprehensive package on the table so that the United States can do its part to change this — a billion-dollar tax credit to speed the invention of vaccines; a $50-million contribution to a global fund to purchase vaccines; substantial increase in research at the National Institutes of Health.

I’ve asked the World Bank to dedicate more lending to improve health, and Mr. Wolfensohn has been very forthcoming here today and I thank him for that. The private sector is also responding to this challenge, and I want to thank them and recognize the commitments that have been announced here today. Merck is committing to develop an AIDS vaccine not just for strains of the virus that affect wealthy nations, but for strains that ravage the poorest nations as well. This is profoundly important. It’s also donating a million doses of Hepatitis B vaccine to those who need it most. American Home Products will donate 10 million doses of a vaccine to — strains of pneumonia and meningitis in children. SmithKline-Beecham will expand its malaria vaccine program and begin new vaccine trials in Africa, and will donate drugs worth a billion dollars to eliminate elephantiasis, which is a painful and potentially very crippling and disfiguring tropical disease. Aventis Pharma will donate 50 million doses of polio vaccine to five wartorn African nations.

This is a very important beginning. It will save lives and make it clear that we’re serious. But all of us agree there is more to do. We have to first build on the bipartisan support that now exists in our Congress to enact the research and experimentation tax credit, and the tax credit that we proposed for this specific purpose, and to get the funding increases through. I will go to the G-8 meeting in Okinawa this summer to urge our partners to take similar steps. And so let me say I am profoundly grateful...." [The President then moved on to other topics.]

See also GAVI press release, 2 March 2000


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