Walmart rules out incentives for shots

Walmart Inc. is bucking a trend among other retailers that are offering eligible workers incentives to get a covid-19 vaccination.

The Bentonville-based retailer has "no plans to offer incentives at this time but will make the vaccine free and accessible to our 1.5 million U.S. associates," a Walmart spokeswoman said Friday.

However, the spokeswoman said Friday that the company will give employees three days of paid leave in case they experience vaccine side effects.

With more than 5,000 Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies prepared to to administer the shots, "we are ready to offer the vaccine to associates when it is available and they are eligible," she said.

Also, Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies currently giving vaccinations occasionally offer customers and employees any doses left over at the end of each day.

"Eligibility and Waste Avoidance Protocols have been developed in collaboration with state health departments with the shared goal of never letting a dose go to waste," the same spokeswoman said Thursday.

Doses of vaccine in each vial are administered in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration, she said.

"In the event additional doses from an opened vial are available, and there are no scheduled appointments, we turn to individuals, including our associates, who fall within that priority to administer the remaining doses," the spokeswoman said. "If no one is available in that priority, where states allow, we move to the next priority."

Walmart has said previously that it will not require its employees to get vaccinated.

A growing list of companies, including Walmart rival Target Corp., are offering incentives in a variety of forms such as cash, paid time off for a vaccination appointment, and store credit.

Minneapolis-based Target, for instance, said it is giving up to four hours' pay -- two hours per dose -- to hourly workers who get vaccinated. In addition, the retailer will offer all employees free Lyft rides up to $15 each way to get to appointments.

Target is encouraging its employees to get the shots once they become eligible, but is not requiring them to do so.

"As more vaccines become available, especially for frontline and essential workers, we'll help our team members across the country get the information and access they need," said Melissa Kremer, Target's chief human resources officer.

Target-owned delivery service Shipt said on Feb. 10 that it will give its employees, called shoppers, a $25 stipend for each of the two shots required. Hourly workers at Shipt's Alabama headquarters will also get paid time off to get vaccinated and the free Lyft rides to and from appointments.

The Kroger Co. said earlier this month that all employees who get the full manufacturer-recommended doses of the vaccine will get $100 one-time payments.

Workers unable to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons will have the option of taking an educational health and safety course to receive the payment, the supermarket chain said.

Other companies offering employees incentives to get inoculated against the virus include grocery chains Aldi and Lidl; Dollar General; Trader Joe's; Petco; Eyemart Express; and Tractor Supply Co.

None of these companies is requiring their workers to be vaccinated, though according to the CDC, they have the legal right to do so. But that could open a can of worms that most employers are avoiding.

Tiffanie Boyd, U.S. chief people officer for McDonald's, said in a statement that the company will "encourage vaccination and connect employees with trusted, third-party experts" who can provide information and answer questions workers may have about the vaccine.

McDonald's will give four hours of paid time off to employees who get the shots.