Should the government pay people to take a COVID vaccine?

To make sure everyone gets their dose, one economist wants to start paying people for it.


September 16, 2020

Researchers have been working around the clock to find a COVID vaccine. But once it exists, we may have another problem on our hands.

A recent poll by NBC News and SurveyMonkey found that only 44% of Americans would for sure get the vaccine, were it to exist.

This resistance has led some economists to propose that the government should pay people to down their doses.

How much are we talking?

The concept is still hypothetical, but the main economist behind it, Robert Litan, has pegged the number at $1k per person.

If 60% of Americans took up that offer, it would cost ~$198B. That’s a steep bill to foot — but it still looks better that the $460B our economy reportedly lost in Q2 of 2020.

An incentivization may be worth it if it jumpstarts economic activity.

If direct payments don’t work, maybe try… peer pressure?

A thousand bucks might not convince you to take the vaccine. But if it persuades your friends, that could be enough.

Litan wants to make sure we get to herd immunity — the tapering of an infection that occurs when a certain % of the population is immune. So, he’s proposed holding back a big portion of that vaccine money (maybe $800) until most of the population gets its dose.

With $800/person hanging in the balance, you can only imagine how intense the family group chats with your unvaccinated uncle are going to get.

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