WASHINGTON — Dollar General announced plans on Wednesday to pay its front line employees the equivalent of four hours worth of service, to go out and get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Tennessee-based company said it wanted to remove barriers for its employees so they won't have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming into work. Dollar General said that healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents are currently receiving the vaccine, but essential workers, which consists of its employees, could be next in line.
"We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice, and although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so," Dollar General said in a statement.
The chain is one of the first retailers to offer compensation for employees who get vaccinated.
Dollar General operates almost 17,000 stores across the U.S. in 46 states. The Washington Post reports it currently has about 157,000 employees.
More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.
However, the vaccination effort is ramping up around the country. Large-scale, drive-thru vaccination sites have opened at stadiums and other places, enabling people to get their shots through their car windows.
Also, an increasing number of states have begun offering vaccinations to the next group in line — senior citizens — with the minimum age varying from place to place at 65, 70 or 75. Up to now, health care workers and nursing home residents have been given priority in most places.
And the Trump administration announced plans Tuesday to speed up the vaccination drive by releasing the whole supply of doses, instead of holding large quantities in reserve to make sure people get their second shot on time.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has more than 22 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. had more than 381,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are nearly 92 million confirmed cases with more than 1.9 million deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.