In the annals of dumb ideas to give away money, this isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard, but it’s up there. From the (you guessed it) New York Times:
What’s the best way to get the economy back on track after the Covid-19 recession? Simple: Achieve herd immunity. And what’s the best way to achieve herd immunity? Again, simple: Once a vaccine is approved, pay people to take it.
That bold proposal comes from Robert Litan, an economist at the Brookings Institution. Congress should enact it as quickly as possible.
You may be asking yourself, “Who wouldn’t take the vaccine for free?” It seems like a no-brainer but…
In a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll, only 44 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine. The rest said they wouldn’t or weren’t sure.
Given the track record of polls, I’m not likely to give this one much credence, however it’s worth remembering that then VP candidate Kamala Harris cast her own doubts on whether she would take it.
“If the public health professionals, if Dr. [Anthony] Fauci if the doctors tell us that we should take it, then I’ll be first in line to take it,” Harris said. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it — then I’m not taking it.”
That’s a dumb comment from a public official. So Trump just has to taunt Harris to take it, and to spite him she’ll refuse? That’ll show him!
I think more likely that once the vaccines are available, there will be a mad scramble to get them, no financial incentive needed. People are anxious to resume normal lives and achieving herd immunity is a vital step to doing that. So paying people to get a vaccine is just a dumb idea unless you are absolutely looking to throw money out the door and are trying to find a method to do that.
What would be worth paying for would be for people to get the virus. Now before you run away screaming, hear me out.
Based on what we know of the COVID-19 fatality rates by age, young people are at little to no risk from COVID-19.
So…it occurs to me if back in April, we had paid young people under 30 in good health and no pre-existing conditions (like obesity) to be infected with the virus we would probably have already achieved something close to herd immunity and could live normal lives while waiting for the vaccine to appear. The volunteers would be well compensated to have few symptoms although for an unfortunate few, they would likely get flu like symptoms. That’s no fun, but I’ve had the flu and didn’t get paid for it, so it might be worth a shot. Since this is the population that has most resisted the lockdown restrictions, and were likely going to break it anyway, this would give the opportunity to make large swaths of that population immune, so they can stop risking others, like grandma at Thanksgiving.
Of course it’s too late for this policy at this late date in the pandemic. The arrival of the Trump vaccines means that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but there will be other China viruses, and given the irrational hysteria demonstrated both by public professionals and the general populace, we may be looking at many more hysterical lockdowns in the years ahead. Since we can’t cut our stupidity short on this, let’s at least use a tool to speed the through the painful process quicker.