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Dollar General workers who get the coronavirus vaccine will be rewarded with four hours of pay, the company announced Wednesday, making it one of the first major retailers to incentivize inoculations for its workforce.

While such major brands as Walmart and CVS have key roles in the distribution of vaccines, most are encouraging employees to get vaccinated but not mandating it. But as doses become available to front-line workers outside of health and long-term care, Dollar General wants to remove barriers -- including transit and child-care costs -- that might prevent its 157,000 employees from getting the vaccine, the discount retailer said in a news release. On average, Dollar General employees make a base rate of $9.80 an hour, according to PayScale.

"We do not have an on-site pharmacy and currently do not have systems in place for employees to receive a vaccine at their work site," the company said. "We do not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work."

Companies across the country are scrambling to lobby state and federal governments to secure vaccine priority for their workforces. In December, the National Retail Federation sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, arguing that the nation's 32 million retail workers -- who are front-line, essential workers -- should be given early access.

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"The coronavirus, and the ensuing shutdown of businesses, has wrought havoc upon retailers of every size, in every community," the retail trade group wrote in the letter. "The process of approving vaccines for use to combat covid-19, and appropriate ordering of its distribution, is a critical first step in getting our economy and community life back on track."

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail for GlobalData in New York, said the nature of retail work inevitably leaves employees vulnerable to the virus, even if they follow the recommended public health protocols.

"Even with preventative measures such as masks, retail workers are at risk of exposure because they regularly come into contact with a large number of people," Saunders said in an email to The Washington Post. "From a retailer's perspective, they want staff to be safe but they also don't want to be responsible for an contagion among colleagues or customers. As such, retailers will be keen for their staff to get vaccinated."

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