Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks to the media

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks to the media on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

New Bill Proposes Cutting Pentagon Spending to Fund Vaccines for Poor Nations

"We can't bomb our way out of a global pandemic," said Rep. Mark Pocan, the sponsor of the legislation, "Shifting funds from weaponry and military contractors to producing Covid vaccines will save hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of lives around the world."

Jake Johnson

Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin introduced legislation this week that would cut billions of dollars from the Pentagon's massive budget and invest those funds in global coronavirus vaccination efforts, which are badly lagging as rich countries continue to hoard doses and rush ahead with booster shots.

"Shifting funds from weaponry and military contractors to producing Covid vaccines will save hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of lives around the world."
—Rep. Mark Pocan

The Covid Defense Act proposes transferring $9.6 billion in U.S. military spending to Covax—a global vaccination initiative led by the World Health Organization—to assist with the procurement of doses for the people of low-income nations. Thus far, just 1.3% of people in poor countries have received at least one vaccine dose.

In a press release, Pocan's office said that the funding—which represents just 1.3% of the $740.5 billion in U.S. military spending approved for 2021—"could lead to an additional 1.8 billion Covid vaccine doses for lower-income countries in 2021 and early 2022." If passed, Pocan's office said, the new legislation could provide vaccine access to another 30% of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations.

"We can't bomb our way out of a global pandemic," Pocan said in a statement. "Right now, Covid is the greatest risk to our national security as well as the world's security. Shifting funds from weaponry and military contractors to producing Covid vaccines will save hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of lives around the world."

"At a time when America spends more on its military than the next 11 closest nations combined," the Wisconsin Democrat added, "we should be able to sacrifice a little over 1% of that to save lives, build global goodwill, and actually make the world a safer, healthier place."

Pocan unveiled his legislation as Covax's vaccine distribution effort—which relies heavily on donations from rich countries—continues to falter, in large part due to inadequate supply. As the New York Times reported earlier this month, "Covax has struggled to acquire doses: It stands half a billion short of its goal."

"Covax hasn't failed, but it is failing," Dr. Ayoade Alakija, a co-chair of the African Union's vaccine delivery program," told the Times. "We really have no other options. For the sake of humanity, Covax must work."

The Covid Defense Act would authorize President Joe Biden to direct $9.6 billion in funding to coronavirus vaccine production and distribution efforts benefiting low-income countries, many of which are currently being ravaged by Covid-19.

According to survey results released Thursday by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, nearly 70% of likely U.S. voters want the Biden administration to invest in global vaccination efforts, particularly a worldwide vaccine manufacturing program.

"The American public overwhelmingly supports doing what's right and necessary: massively ramping up coronavirus vaccine production so that everyone on the planet can be vaccinated," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a statement. "That's a humanitarian imperative as the disease spreads faster and faster among low-vaccinated low- and middle-income countries. It's also a requirement even to end the pandemic in the U.S."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo