U.S. health officials are exploring a partnership with Dollar General, one of the nation’s largest retailers, to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the nation’s rural areas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in talks with Dollar General, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.
Dollar General does not have pharmacies, but it has more than 16,000 locations. That’s about three times the number of locations as Walmart and more than half as many as CVS and Walgreens, all three of which are delivering COVID-19 vaccines at some of their pharmacy locations.
“In rural areas, residents often don’t have access to big-box stores,” Walensky said at the Health Action Alliance’s virtual National Business Summit. “We’re exploring a promising collaboration with Dollar General stores, which have locations that include refrigeration capacity within 10 or 15 miles of our rural communities in all but four states.”
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Representatives from the CDC and Dollar General were not immediately available to provide additional details Tuesday.
Dollar General was one of the first major companies to announce incentives for its own employees to get vaccinated. The company is giving four hours of pay to hourly front-line workers who get shots.
The talks between the CDC and Dollar General come amid concern that many rural Americans won’t get vaccinated, which could make the pandemic last longer.
“Individuals living in rural areas in the U.S. are significantly less likely to say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine that is deemed safe and available for free than individuals living in suburban and urban America,” according to Kaiser Family Foundation research published in January.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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