Democrat unveils bill to redirect Pentagon spending toward global vaccination efforts

Democrat unveils bill to redirect Pentagon spending toward global vaccination efforts
© Greg Nash

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats livid over GOP's COVID-19 attacks on Biden With Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill MORE (D-Wis.) introduced legislation Wednesday that would shift about $9.6 billion in U.S. defense spending toward global COVID-19 vaccination efforts as much of the world's population remains without access to vaccines.

Pocan estimated that nearly $10 billion directed to the COVAX initiative, a joint effort between the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other international organizations, could help vaccinate another 30 percent of the population in low-income countries based on an equivalent amount of funding already pledged.

"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," Pocan said in a statement.

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

President BidenJoe BidenMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 MORE announced earlier this month that the U.S. has already donated and shipped more than 110 million doses of American-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries. The White House said that the majority of the vaccines were shipped through COVAX.

While COVID-19 vaccines are widely available to anyone over the age of 12 in the U.S., and with about 51 percent of the population now fully vaccinated, vaccine access is far more limited in most other countries.

About 24 percent of the world's population is fully vaccinated, and just 1.3 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is recommending vaccine booster doses for most Americans to address evidence of waning immunity over time and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Global health advocates pushed back on the administration's recommendation for booster shots, arguing the move will exacerbate global inequalities if Americans start receiving boosters before people in other countries have yet to receive any shot of protection at all.

Pocan has long been among a group of House Democrats who have called for reductions in defense spending, arguing the funds should instead be used for domestic programs.

In March, Pocan and 49 other House Democrats sent a letter to Biden urging him to decrease funding for the Pentagon in his 2022 budget proposal.

"Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research," they wrote.