The idea would be to add Dollar General to the federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program, which includes CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Costco and a number of grocery stores. The program is separate from the state-run vaccination distribution network, according to one of the study’s authors, Judith Chevalier, professor of finance and economics at the Yale School of Management.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dollar General are in favor of the idea, which is why Chevalier and her co-authors studied Dollar General in particular.
“We’re exploring a promising collaboration with Dollar General stores, which have locations within 10 or 15 miles of our rural communities in all but four states,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a recent interview.
The question they asked was, “If I’m a low-income household, how far am I from a current pharmacy partner and would my proximity be improved if Dollar General were added to the program?” Chevalier said Monday.
While many Dollar General stores in Connecticut are situated near locations that are giving vaccines, that is not true in other parts of the country, especially in the upper Midwest and South.
“The current pharmacy partners are disproportionately located in lower vulnerability tracts, whereas Dollar General is actually disproportionately located in higher-vulnerability tracts,” Chevalier said.
According to the study, the proportion of the Black population that lives within 1 mile of a vaccination site would increase from 53.6 to 66.1 percent if Dollar General were included. For Hispanic people, a site would be within 1 mile for 53.4 percent with Dollar General, up from 44.9 percent now.
“Dollar General helps the Hispanic population a lot,” Chevalier said. Also, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in March, “Hispanic people are the most likely to say, ‘I want a vaccine but I haven’t gotten one yet,’” she said.
In Connecticut, 64.7 percent of the population is within 1 mile of a retail vaccination site. When locations overseen by the state are added, that increases to 73.2 percent, and with Dollar General included, it rises to 75.5 percent.
“We actually have a lot of Dollar Generals in our state, but they’re pretty close to the other retailers in our state,” Chevalier said. “Connecticut’s not the place where there’s a big bang from Dollar General.” There are 69 Dollar Generals in Connecticut, according to the study.
However, including Dollar General would have another benefit in that the people who are most lacking in getting vaccines are those who frequent the discount retailer the most. “Low-income people go there and they go there frequently,” more than once a week, Chevalier said.
Since Dollar General stores do not have pharmacies, the most likely locations would be those with parking lot where a pop-up clinic could be set up, perhaps on a weekly basis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could supply the vaccinators,…