With Democrats and Republicans still deadlocked on stimulus talks, Maryland congressman and former presidential candidate John Delaney devised a new strategy to kill two birds with one stone: scatter another round of stimulus funds, while ensuring that a sufficient number of Americans consent to receiving the vaccine that the United States can quickly exceed the immunity threshold of around 70%, in which case scientists believe the vaccine will stop spreading.
And that plan is this: Offer Americans an “incentive payment” of $ 1,500 to agree to receive two doses of the vaccine. Delaney argued the plan would benefit all Americans, even those who still refuse, because it could help the country crush the virus faster.
“The faster we get 75% of this country vaccinated, the faster we end Covid and the faster it all gets back to normal,” Delaney said in an interview with CNBC.com.
Certainly, Delaney’s plan has virtually no chance of becoming law. Republicans and Democrats don’t even seem to agree on basic things like the size of the package ($ 600 billion or $ 900 billion) and whether companies deserve liability protection to prevent them from being sued. by people claiming to have been infected at their facility (GOP chief Mitch McConnell sees this as a must). President Trump recently promised Americans that the vaccine would not be mandatory.
Delaney initially designed the program as a workaround for widespread public skepticism about the vaccine.
While recent opinion polls show that the number of Americans planning to be vaccinated as soon as it is available is on the rise, more than 40% of the population has already been infected, sees no urgent need for a vaccine, or just don’t trust the data.
It’s also the latest indication that public health officials fear the vaccine doesn’t have enough credibility to convince enough Americans to accept it. With so many at stake, it makes sense that other “incentives” could be considered.
Others, including some industry leaders and lobbyists, are even threatening to make acceptance of the vaccine mandatory for employees to return to work. Presumably, those who refuse will not be allowed to return, effectively tying their ability to earn a living to their acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine and / or their ability to obtain one (as a “black market” for doses is almost assured, especially after Pfizer and Moderna warned that they could not deliver additional doses until mid-2021 (this, just days after Pfizer slashed its end-2021 delivery target by 50% in due to problems with the raw materials).
Delaney told CNBC Americans are going to need some sort of incentive to encourage them to take the vaccine.
“We need to create, in my opinion, an incentive for people to really speed up their thinking about taking the vaccine,” Delaney said. Certainly, those who are uncomfortable receiving the vaccine would not be required to do so.
Although he has estimated that even those who refuse to participate will still benefit from the program, which he believes could cost around $ 380 million, because once COVID is eradicated, everyone will benefit.
“If you’re still scared of the vaccine and don’t want to take it, it’s your right,” Delaney said. “You will not participate in this program. “But guess what?” he added. “You will benefit from it anyway, because we will get the collective immunity of the country more quickly, which will benefit you.” So I think everyone wins.
Granted, while Delaney’s plan may seem feasible at first glance, experts have pointed out that it would likely be difficult and expensive to achieve.
Some experts doubt that such a plan will work. “It’s an interesting idea,” said Bill Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and former member of the Senate, however, he felt that it would be wrong to link people’s stimulus checks to the vaccine schedule. , given the initial shortage of doses. In addition, outdated IRS computer systems could falter from the effort of cross-checking whether individuals actually received their vaccines before distributing the stimulus money.
Other countries, including Mexico, have used “incentive” payments like this to increase their immunization rates. But as Delaney voluntarily admits, in the United States we already have a pretty strong incentive system to encourage vaccinations, and what’s more, it’s primarily aimed at children: States have vaccination rules that require students to be vaccinated before being allowed to enter. a classroom.
So why should the federal government spend all this money when there are other, less expensive ways to pressure families into submission?
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