WASHINGTON: Protect American Families (PAF), a coalition of consumer, labor, and safety advocacy groups, waged a week-long communications initiative, ending last week, to raise awareness of provisions in the Defense appropriations bill ? inserted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ? that would extend legal immunity to vaccine and drug makers.
The public education campaign, the goal of which was to defeat the Frist provisions, ultimately failed when Congress passed legislation prior to adjourning for the holidays that included broad legal protections for pharmaceutical companies.
As part of the campaign, PAF ran advertisements on several blogs, including Talking Points Memo, AMERICAblog and Politics1.com, highlighting Frist's ties to the pharmaceutical industry. The coalition also bought a full-page ad in National Journal's Congress Daily.
"We focus our education campaigns on issues that the media does not look at adequately," PAF President Pamela Gilbert said.
Under the measure inserted into the military spending bill, pharmaceutical companies making vaccines to protect against biological agents or pandemic viruses would be protected from lawsuits, even if they are negligent or reckless. Frist maintained that lawsuit immunity was necessary to helping stimulate a dwindling US vaccine market.
Members of PAF, a brand new coalition, include the Alliance for Justice, Center for Justice and Democracy, Health Care for All Coalition, and several labor unions.