nited Airlines will require employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID - 19 by late October, perhaps sooner, joining a growing number of big corporations responding to a surge in virus cases.
Company leaders called it matter of safety and cited 'incredibly compelling' evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines.
"We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require vaccine for all United employees," Governor Brett Hart told employees Friday. ' "The facts are crystal clear, but you can be very careful when everyone is vaccinated. My child is safer than me."
United, which has 67,000 employees in the United States, is the first major U.S. airline to announce it will require vaccination for workers. The airline has been requiring vaccination of new hires since mid-June. In company offices, unvaccinated workers must wear face masks.
The Chicago-based airline estimates that up to 90% of its pilots and close to 80% of its flight attendants are already vaccinated. The airline told U.S. employees Friday that they will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct 25 or five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration gives full authorization for any one vaccine - whichever date comes first. So far, the FDA has only authorized emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson Johnson vaccines. A full approval is expected soon.
Each employee will have to send an image of their vaccine card to the company. Those who don't will be granted with exemptions cancelled only for religious or health reasons, officials said.
Employees who are already vaccinated or do so by July 20 will get an extra day of pay, according to the memo from Kirby and Hart.
In addition, Delta Air Lines had performed vaccination center for employees and recently started using the shots for new employees. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said this week that 73% of the airline's workforce is vaccinated. Executives at other airlines have similarly encouraged their workers to get vaccinated, even offering bonus and paid time off to get the shots, but haven't made it mandatory.
Airlines and other travel companies have been especially affected in the incident by the pandemic, which led to sharp travel restrictions. The United States requires people entering the country, including US citizens, to show proof of a positive COVID 19 test and Biden administration plans to require non-U.S. citizens to be vaccinated before entering the country
A United executive said the airline has no plans to require passengers be vaccinated, calling that decision a government decision. The CEOs of Delta and American have similarly ruled out a mandate for passengers.
Microsoft, Google and Facebook have said they will require proof of vaccination to their employees and visitors on this fall in their U.S. offices if they become ill after that date.
This week, Tyson Foods announced that it would require all U.S. employees to get vaccinated by November — notable because unlike the tech companies, Tyson relies on many lower-paid workers who cannot do their jobs remotely. The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers criticized Tyson for imposing the requirement while the vaccines have only emergency approval from the FDA.
A few governments are getting involved in this. California and New York City will require employees to undergo weekly testing or face vaccination, and the state mandate extends to workers in public and private hospitals and nursing homes.
The new rules come with the surge in infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant of COVID - 19 in the U.S. The 7 days average of new reported coronavirus cases has jumped from about 12,000 reported a month ago to more than 90,000 a day, although hospitalizations and deaths have increased slowly.