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Trader Joe's, Dollar General And Others Are Paying Workers To Get Vaccines

A Trader Joe's worker disinfects shopping carts and controls the number of customers allowed to shop at one time in Omaha, Neb., on May 7, 2020. Grocers like Trader Joe's are offering pay incentives to encourage their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Nati Harnik
/
AP
A Trader Joe's worker disinfects shopping carts and controls the number of customers allowed to shop at one time in Omaha, Neb., on May 7, 2020. Grocers like Trader Joe's are offering pay incentives to encourage their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A growing number of grocers are adopting a novel approach in the race to get their workers vaccinated against COVID-19: providing pay incentives.

Aldi this week became the latest grocery chain to offer employees compensation for getting vaccinated, saying it would provide workers with two hours of pay for each of the two vaccine doses.

The grocer also promised workers receiving vaccines that they would not lose pay for missed hours from work and that it would help pay for the shots.

"Providing accommodations so employees can receive this critical vaccine is one more way we can support them and eliminate the need to choose between earning their wages and protecting their well-being," said Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi U.S., in a statement.

With its announcement, the U.S. unit of the German grocer joined Trader Joe's and Dollar General in offering to pay employees extra hourly wages to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Online grocery-delivery firm Instacart, meanwhile, is offering a $25 stipend for eligible workers and contractors.

The payments come as governments and companies grapple with how to get people vaccinated amid significant skepticism about the doses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says the United States will likely need a vaccination level of between 70% and 90% to reach herd immunity.

Paying people is an idea that is winning adherents, but it also has its critics, who believe that offering to pay people could actually reinforce skepticism about the vaccine by making it seem risky.

Employers have the legal right to require that their workers get the COVID-19 vaccine, with some exceptions, according to experts.

But it can be tricky. Workers also generally have the right to request medical or religious exemptions to vaccines under federal anti-discrimination laws, and companies are so far wading carefully.

Dollar General, for example, made clear it would not force its employees to get vaccinated when announcing its pay incentives last week.

"We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice," the chain said. "And although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claire Miller

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