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Extra Than Nudges Are Wanted to Finish the Pandemic

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Although this policy is well intended, I believe it is a mistake for a state or a country to offer to pay individuals to get vaccinated. First of all, the amount might be taken to be an indicator of how much — or little — the government thinks getting a jab is worth. Surely the value to society of increased vaccinations is well beyond $100 per person.

Second, it seems increasingly likely that one or more booster shots may be necessary for some populations in the United States to deal with the Delta variant of the coronavirus — and, perhaps, other variants as well. If that happens, we don’t want some people to procrastinate, hoping to get paid. Government-sponsored booster shots are already beginning in Israel and are at various stages of planning in several European countries.

An alternative model is being offered by the National Football League, which has stopped short of requiring players to be vaccinated but is offering plenty of incentives. Unvaccinated players have to be tested every day, must be masked and at a distance from teammates on flights, and must stay in their room until game day. Vaccinated players who test positive and are asymptomatic can return to duty after two negative tests 24 hours apart. But unvaccinated players must undergo a 10-day isolation period.

These incentives followed a long effort to educate the players about the benefits to themselves, their families and fellow players. It is hard to say which aspect of the N.F.L. plan is doing the work, but over 90 percent of the league’s players have received at least one jab. The fact that a team could lose a game because an unvaccinated player can’t play creates a powerful group dynamic.

A focus on teamwork is also featured in the Cleveland-Cliffs steel company’s generous offer to its employees. Vaccinated employees get a bonus depending on how many others at their work site do likewise. The company will pay vaccinated workers $1,500 if 75 percent of employees get the vaccine, and $3,000 if the proportion reaches 85 percent. This focus on group vaccination rates reinforces the message that everybody benefits if more people get jabs.

Many universities and businesses like Walmart, Disney, Google and Uber are requiring employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus or the office. New York City will require vaccinations for indoor restaurants, gyms and other activities. But carrying out such policies is unnecessarily difficult because of the archaic state of vaccination records.

As anyone who has been vaccinated knows, the card you receive to document your shots looks like a handwritten 1950s library card, and is too big to fit in a wallet. It is jarring to use that piece of paper as documentation for vaccines created with 21st-century science.


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