Clinton seeks funds to push TB vaccine

Just getting mentioned doesn’t hurt, either

When TB scores a mention in President Clinton’s State of the Union address, things can’t be too bad, says Paul Billings, deputy director of media relations at the American Lung Association (ALA). The fact that a Republican-led Congress doesn’t seem inclined to give Clinton much of anything he asked for in his State-of-the-Union wish list — including a billion dollars in tax credits to promote vaccine research for TB, HIV, and malaria — hardly matters, he adds.

"We were very excited by the fact that Clinton simply mentioned TB," he says. "A lot of times, what happens is that HIV does get mentioned, but TB doesn’t. There’s a lot of salience in something like this."

To Billing and others at the ALA, where some observers say the anti-smoking campaign has lost steam, the fact that Clinton failed to mention tobacco was almost as riveting as the fact that he did talk about the "Big Three" infectious diseases. Last year, of course, the weed stood front and center in the State of the Union, reflecting the fact that the federal government was busy bringing suit against tobacco companies.

If, by some miracle, Congress does hand over a $1 billion tax credit, that will be even better, he says — despite the fact that most vaccine trials take place in overseas divisions of corporations and thus might not qualify for tax relief. "If it happens, don’t worry," says Billings. "I’m sure someone in the pharmaceutical industry will figure out how to use a tax credit to their advantage."