CDC, Dollar General Could Partner to Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Availability in Rural and Low-Income Areas

Nurse performing drive-thru immunization.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in talks with Dollar General, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday, according to USA Today.

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This development follows President Biden’s announcement yesterday that the U.S. would buy an additional 100 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines, giving enough vaccine supply “for every adult by the end of May,” according to his remarks.

“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, USA Today reports. “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.”

While the chain doesn’t have pharmacies, it has more than 17,000 stores, according to the retailer’s website, or three times the number of locations as Walmart and more than half as many as CVS and Walgreens, three chains that are distributing the vaccines, according to USA Today.

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Walensky said in a statement yesterday that one year ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

“After a year of this fight, we are tired, we are lonely, we are impatient. There have been too many missed family gatherings, too many lost milestones and opportunities, too many sacrifices. And still, through it all, there is determination; there are stories of giving and hope, of stamina and perseverance. We are better together, and together, we will endure,” she said in a statement released today. “The vaccination of millions every day gives me hope. Hope that we can beat this pandemic. And hope that we can get back to being with our family, friends, and community. And soon.”

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In remarks yesterday, Biden said he had not hesitated to use his power under the Defense Production Act “to expedite critical materials in vaccine production, such as equipment, machinery, and supplies. And it’s not just Johnson & Johnson and Merck; Pfizer and Moderna also worked closely with us to help speed up the delivery of millions of more doses.”

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The result is that the country is now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May, “months earlier than anyone expected,” he added. “I am directing Jeff [Zients] and my HHS team to produce an additional 100 million doses and purchase another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I’m doing this because, in this wartime efforts[sic], we need maximum flexibility. There is always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or we’ll — there will be a new need for a vaccine effort.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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