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COVID vaccines at Dollar General would boost access for low-income populations, study says

Scott Tong Apr 8, 2021
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Dollar General has nearly doubled its store count in the last decade, filling in gaps in areas without big-box stores or grocery chains. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID vaccines at Dollar General would boost access for low-income populations, study says

Scott Tong Apr 8, 2021
Heard on:
Dollar General has nearly doubled its store count in the last decade, filling in gaps in areas without big-box stores or grocery chains. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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A plan floated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use Dollar General stores as COVID-19 vaccine sites would boost significantly access for vulnerable populations, a new preprint study finds.

At issue: how to get vaccines into the arms of low-income Americans in hard-to-reach rural and urban areas. As it turns out, there’s a Dollar General within 5 miles of 75% of Americans, the company says. In all, the company has more than 17,000 outlets nationwide, more than there are Starbucks.

“We’re exploring a promising collaboration with Dollar General stores,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 9 in an online address to The Health Alliance, “all of which have locations within 10 or 15 miles of our rural communities in all but four states.”

Dollar General has nearly doubled its store count in the last decade, filling in gaps in areas without big-box stores or grocery chains.

“Dollar General describes their model as ‘we go where other people ain’t,'” said Judith Chevalier, an economist at the Yale School of Management. “The fact they’re built out so extensively in low-income neighborhoods is precisely what makes them valuable for giving people convenient access to vaccines.”

In the new pre-print paper, Chevalier and colleagues at Yale found that 60% of Americans would be within one mile of a COVID-19 vaccine site if Dollar General were enlisted in the national effort. Such a program would allow the Biden administration to surpass its goal of providing 90% of Americans access to a vaccine site within five miles of home.

Still, there would be rural challenges to pulling this off, including the recruitment of sufficient health professionals to give shots, said Joanie Perkins, an executive at North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville, Mississippi.

“You’ve got a health care professional staffing issue, the HIPAA privacy issues,” Perkins said. “They’ve got to have good broadband Internet connectivity, because those all have to be reported through the state level registries.”

Then there’s the issue of vaccine hesitancy in rural areas. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more rural respondents “definitely” would decline the vaccine, compared to other survey participants.

“That’s 20% in rural areas, compared to closer to 10% in urban and suburban areas,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at the foundation. “But that still leaves about 80% who either want to get it right away or are least somewhat open.”

Marketplace asked the CDC for an update on a potential partnership with Dollar General; the centers did not respond before deadline. A Dollar General spokesperson referred to a statement indicating that “specific details” about a federal vaccine collaboration “will be provided once finalized.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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