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John Delaney: Get vaccinated in exchange for $1,500 stimulus check

John Delaney, Fmr. Congressman and Presidential Candidate, joins Yahoo Finance's Alexis Christoforous to discuss a proposal to tie stimulus checks to vaccinations.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Would you be willing to get a COVID vaccine in exchange for a stimulus check? My next guest thinks it is the most effective way to get the majority of the country vaccinated. Joining me now is John Delaney, a former Democratic Congressman from Maryland. He also ran for president in 2020. He's now CEO at the Steve Case company Revolution Acceleration

John, good to see you again. So this is a bold proposal. It would be a huge undertaking. Walk us through it.

JOHN DELANEY: So it's a fairly straightforward proposal, which is to tie part of the stimulus check-- it doesn't have to be all of it, but part of it-- to Americans receiving the vaccine. The data or the polling suggests that not enough Americans are focused on getting the vaccine in the short term. So I think if we could create an incentive to get-- instead of say 50% of the country vaccinated, get 75% of the country vaccinated sooner, that would end this tragedy of COVID and allow us to get back to normal faster.

So to some extent, I think it's a great investment. The American people need a stimulus check. Stimulus checks should have been included, in my opinion, in the relief package. So why not tie some of that to a financial incentive to get the vaccine? And other countries have done similar things, and it's worked incredibly well. So I think an incentive to do this would get us out of this much faster.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: If I'm hearing you correctly, you would still be able to get some stimulus money, perhaps not all of it if you didn't get vaccinated, under your proposal?

JOHN DELANEY: That's right. That's right. There are so many ways of doing it. I mean, you know, if you think about it, they're talking about a $600 stimulus check, which I think is too low. But putting that aside, they're talking about a $600 stimulus check. Imagine if we made that $900 or $1,000, and $600 went to everyone, and then another $300 to $400 went when you received the vaccine. So I think ideas like that should be put in the mix, because I think it takes a stimulus check, which is important, and it also creates an incentive for people to get vaccinated, which is incredibly important.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You mentioned the $600 being proposed right now in that relief package is too little. What do you think it should be? How big should that stimulus check be?

JOHN DELANEY: Well, I think the $1,200 they did last time, I thought, was a good level. But, again, I think any number would help the American people, but I do think part of it should be an incentive to get vaccinated. Because I think what people aren't really focusing on is that we need 75% of the country to have immunity or antibodies to COVID to end this. That's the number that most scientists believe we need to reach, in other words, 75% of the country with the antibodies either because they've had COVID or because they get the vaccine. That creates herd immunity, and it ends COVID. And that should be our goal. If we get there two months faster, that'll save lives and allow our economy to fully restart sooner and will actually save money.

So to me, the most important thing to focus on is, how do we get 75% of our country with antibodies as soon as possible. I'd rather them get it through the vaccine than get it by being exposed to COVID. So creating an enormous incentive-- we now are going to have multiple vaccines. Creating an enormous incentive for the American people to take this vaccine as soon as possible just strikes me as very good policy. It saves lives, and, importantly, it allows our economy to get back sooner.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: But to play devil's advocate here for a moment, John, what do you say to people who say, you know, this just feels icky. On an ethical level, it's not right to sort of, in essence, bribe somebody to get vaccinated with money.

JOHN DELANEY: Well, I don't think there's an ethical concern, because if we thought the vaccine wasn't safe, we shouldn't approve it. So by definition, we're saying the vaccine is safe because we're approving it. So, therefore, creating an incentive for someone to take something that is safe, that we believe is good for them to take, I don't think there's ethical considerations. There's ethical considerations to encourage people to do something that's not good for them, but we believe-- or we wouldn't approve the vaccine-- that it is safe and people should take it.

So, again, I think creating an incentive for people to do something that's not only good for them but good for society, I don't see the ethical issues there. I think-- you know, we've seen in like India, for example, they did something similar, where they created incentive for families to get vaccinated, and it was around providing additional food and credits to purchase food, and we saw vaccination rates go up 600%.

So, you know, again, since there's nothing wrong with taking the vaccine-- and if there was, we shouldn't approve it-- I don't see anything wrong with encouraging people to do something that we think they should do. I mean, we've got President Obama and Clinton and Bush taking the vaccine on the first day it's available as a sign to the American people that it's safe, they should do it. I don't see why providing further incentive for them to do it is an ethical issue at all.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to stick with the stimulus package still trying to make its way there through Congress. You believe that COVID relief should not be the same for all economies. What do you mean by that?

JOHN DELANEY: I don't follow your question. What were you saying I believe?

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That you say that COVID relief should not be the same across the board for all economies. I guess you mean not every state should get the same amount of relief from a package like that?

JOHN DELANEY: No, no. Listen, I think this COVID relief bill that's being crafted, I think this bipartisan group made tremendous progress. And, you know, states and local governments need money. I would love to see that in there. Unemployment insurance clearly needs to be refreshed, because we have a tragedy of high unemployment right now. I think direct stimulus checks are important. So I'm supportive of where this relief bill is going. I'd just like them to get it done.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, you and us both. All right. Former Congressman John Delaney, also now CEO of Revolution Acceleration Acquisition, thanks for being with us. Have a good weekend.

JOHN DELANEY: Great to be with you. Thank you.