CDC, Dollar General may deliver COVID-19 vaccine to more communities

Discount store, health agency seek to increase number of vaccinations in underserved areas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering a partnership with Dollar General, one of the country’s largest retailers, to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in various rural communities.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday her agency has discussed the possibility with the Tennessee-based discount chain, according to a report by USA Today. Though Dollar General does not have pharmacies, it does have volume, with more than 16,000 locations sprinkled throughout the country. The number of stores outpaces those of Walmart and popular pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens, all of which are providing vaccinations now.

“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.”

On Wednesday, the House approved the trillion-dollar COVID relief bill, which earmarks hundreds of billions to vaccines for the virus and treatments, so the officials expect the availability of vaccines to continue to grow. As a part of President Joe Biden’s 100-day plan, he declared he’d like to see nearly 100 million vaccinated.

Representatives from the CDC and Dollar General have not provided further comment on the possible plan, but the retailer has made it clear through actions that vaccinations are a priority. Dollar General was one of a handful of companies to offer incentives to its own employees to get vaccinated. They also offered paid time off for vaccination.

With bipartisan support for increasing the number of Americans vaccinated, there will likely be various private and public partnerships forged to encourage citizens to get inoculated. The need is significant in rural areas, where vaccination numbers have been low.

The efforts to increase vaccination accessibility is a key part of the stimulus package, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“People have lost faith government can do good for them. Now, as vaccines become more available and other changes take place, people are going to see that government actually is making their lives better — which is how Americans used to think of it, and we’ve gotten away from it.”

The White House said Biden would sign the bill Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.