To that end, the federal government should pay every American $1,500 to get vaccinated. Send proof of vaccination, receive a $1,500 check or money via direct deposit.

Such an incentive might be the most effective way to persuade people to overcome suspicion or even fear of vaccines that, like so much else about the pandemic, became politicized during an election year. As Paul Offit, an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in September, just as the Trump administration had politicized mask-wearing and social-distancing rules, so had rhetoric about the race to develop a vaccine made many people worry that safety measures weren’t being followed.

Many Americans were understandably “skittish” about the vaccines, Offit said, yet “they can take comfort in the fact that many people in supervisory positions, as well as a cadre of independent, academic scientists standing behind them, are monitoring this process and looking out for the public’s best interests.”

Other public health officials have offered similar reassurances, but skittishness among much of the public appears slow to subside. That could be disastrous.