United Airlines will require mandatory vaccines for its employees based in the United States, stipulating that they get the shot at least by late October, according to a statement issued on Friday.
The major American carrier made its decision after a raft of companies issued similar rulings after the federal government came down with its decision to mandate that all its employees become inoculated last week.
Prior to that time, it had for the most part been health care concerns that had called for such mandatory inoculations for all their employees. Now, many corporations, including Tyson foods, the largest chicken producer in the country, are falling into line as a recent surge in the Delta variant causes particular concern across the country.
The Associated Press stated in a report that corporate leaders are now terming the issue a matter of safety, pointing to “incredibly compelling” evidence regarding the great effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.
CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart admitted to United employees on Friday “We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees.”
United Airlines mandatory vaccine policy “crystal clear”
However, they went on to argue “the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
The air carrier, which has 67,000 employees in the United States alone, is the very first major US airline to make such an announcement but it has been requiring that all new hires get the vaccine since mid-June. United employees who are currently unvaccinated are required to wear face masks when they are at the offices of the company.
The ruling may not have significant reverberations, however, as the airline estimates that as many as 90% of its pilots and almost 80% of its flight attendants have already had the shot; they have received company incentives to do so, it added.
At present, an executive from the airline said that the company is not currently planning to require that its passengers be vaccinated, saying that was a government decision. The CEOs of both the other major American carriers, Delta and American Airlines, have also stated that they will not call for a vaccine mandate for their passengers.
United’s statement today informed its employees that they will have to be fully vaccinated by October 25, or five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration finally gives its approval to any coronavirus vaccine.
Whichever date comes first will be the cutoff for all employees — meaning it could come even sooner, depending on exactly when the FDA clears a vaccine for the entire public, instead of the current Emergency Use Authorization which is the status of all the vaccines at present.
The full approval of the Pfizer vaccine may come in the very near future, according to reports from the company.
Delta is now stipulating that all of their employees must send an image of their vaccine card to the company to prove inoculation status. All those who fail to do so will be terminated as part of its mandatory vaccine policy.
However, Delta says they will grant some leeway as regards documented religious or health reasons for not getting the inoculation, according to today’s statement.
As an extra incentive, airline employees who already are vaccinated — or will be by Sept. 20 — will receive an extra day’s worth of pay, according to the memo from the CEO and president of the company.
Airline Pilots Association, Flight Attendants union back new directive
The powerful Airline Pilots Association admitted in correspondence to its members that what it termed a “small number of pilots” are in disagreement with the new mandatory vaccines policy; despite that, but the union believes the mandatory calling for vaccinations is legal.
The Association of Flight Attendants for its part had already encouraged its members to become vaccinated and said it was not blindsided or surprised by United’s announcement since CEO Kirby had been speaking out in favor of a mandate for some time.
The vaccine mandate will not be applicable to the employees of the smaller airlines that often operate flights for United Express.
Delta Airlines, which, like United, operated a vaccine center for its employees, also started requiring new hires be vaccinated.
Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta, announced this week that 73% of his employees are now vaccinated.
As of now, however United stands alone in requiring the shot for its workers, although paid time off and bonuses for inoculations have been the rule of the day.
Of course, airlines and all other related businesses tied to travel and tourism were devastated last year and many travel restrictions are still in force.
US to require all foreigners to be vaccinated before allowed into country
While the US requires all those entering the country, including citizens, to show proof of a negative coronavirus test, the Biden administration plans to up the ante even further, requiring all foreigners to be vaccinated before being allowed to enter the country.
Some other nations already require visitors to be vaccinated or test free of the virus; otherwise they will face a quarantine.
Perhaps surprisingly, the latest wave of the coronavirus, sped up by the Delta variant, does not seem to have put much of a dent in airline passenger numbers for most carriers.
Large separations appear to be jumping on the vaccination mandate bandwagon of late, as after Tyson Foods, Disney and Walmart said they would institute inoculation mandates for all of their white-collar workers.
The Tyson announcement appeared to be timed to head off the large-scale worker outages that plagued the spring of 2020, when many meat-packing plants were closed down, causing major shortages for consumers.
The president of the union United Food and Commercial Workers slammed Tyson for imposing the vaccine requirement while they still have just the emergency FDA approval.
The tech giants Microsoft, Google and Facebook all stated that they will require proof of vaccination for not just their own employees but the visitors to their US offices as well.
State and city governments are falling in line as well, with California and New York City now requiring employees to either be vaccinated or face weekly testing. The California mandate even extends to those workers in public and private hospitals and nursing homes.
The new mandates come at a time when the 7-day average of coronavirus infections are spiking to more than 90,000 a day from around 12,000 just one month ago. Although hospitalizations and deaths have risen more slowly, authorities and company heads want to head this fourth wave off at the pass.
As of Friday, half of the US population is now fully vaccinated, according to White House Data Director Dr. Cyrus Shahpar. Earlier this week, the US hit the President’s goal of 70% of the population being at least partially vaccinated.
Shahpar said in a tweet that more than 821,000 doses had been administered over the previous day’s total, including about 555,000 people who had just received their first shot — no small feat, even considering the nation’s population. This most recent spurt of vaccinations appears to be promoted by the recent spikes in the virus.
According to the latest data from the CDC, an average of 699,261 vaccines have been administered each day over the past seven days.
The rate of coronavirus vaccinations in the US reached record highs in mid-April, with an average of more than 3 million shots administered each day.