March 12, 2021 -- The CDC is exploring a partnership with the retail chain Dollar General to deliver the coronavirus vaccine to rural sections of the nation.
"In rural areas, residents often don't have access to big-box stores," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said this week at the Health Action Alliance's virtual National Business Summit, according to USA Today. "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."
Dollar General confirmed the discussions in a statement on its website, but it was unclear if vaccinations would be given at Dollar General stores. USA Today noted that Dollar General stores do not have pharmacies, which is where vaccinations are given at chains such as Kroger or Publix.
“Dollar General continues to have constructive conversations with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on ways the company can support the nation’s COVID-19 testing and vaccine efforts, particularly in the communities we serve,” a statement on the company website said.
“With an expansive and unique real estate footprint, within approximately 5 miles of approximately 75% of the U.S. population, we believe that we are well-positioned to assist in these efforts. Specific details regarding these efforts will be provided once finalized. We remain ready to help where appropriate.”
Getting rural residents vaccinated against the coronavirus has been a challenge because of access to medical care and logistical problems in shipping and storing the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require refrigeration capable of reaching extremely cold temperatures.
The CDC says rural residents may have a high COVID risk because they are generally older and are more likely to have an underlying health condition or a disability than non-rural residents. Rural areas also don’t have enough medical personnel, hospitals, and emergency medical services.
Dollar General has about 16,000 locations -- three times the number of Walmart stores and more stores than either CVS or Walgreens. Those three chains are administering the vaccine at their pharmacies.
Dollar General has encouraged hourly employees to get vaccinated by offering a one-time payment of 4 hours' pay for getting shots.