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After Months of Waiting, United Makes Employee Vaccines Mandatory

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United Airlines wanted to be the first carrier to require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine but waited to see if other businesses will follow suit. On the lead of airline president Scott Kirby, the carrier is giving employees the choice of either getting the vaccine or finding another place to work.

For months after the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available, United Airlines president Scott Kirby danced around the idea of requiring them for the company’s workforce. Now, employees of the Chicago-based airline now have a choice: Get the vaccine or get another job. In a letter publicly released on LinkedIn, Kirby announced every employee must be fully inoculated by Fall 2021.

Kirby Cites Statistics in Defending COVID-19 Vaccine Policy

Under the new policy, all U.S.-based employees of the airline – including those working out of Puerto Rico and Guam – must either have two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Most employees who update their employee profile with their COVID-19 vaccine card will get an additional day of pay, but everyone in the company has a hard deadline of October 25, 2021. In defending the policy, Kirby cites the data about how the virus can be devastating for unvaccinated people.

“Over the last nine months though, we have learned a lot about this disease, including how vaccines are – by far – the most effective way to protect people from COVID-19,” Kirby writes in the letter to the company. “In fact, we know now that an unvaccinated person is about 50 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than a vaccinated person and nearly 300 times more likely to die.”

The policy is in-line with United’s previous announcement in June 2021 that all new employees must be fully vaccinated before joining the company. Although vaccine requirements are on the rise, United is among the minority in requiring them. According to the Society of Human Resource Professionals, only 4.4 percent of U.S. employers are demanding proof of vaccination as a condition of employment. While Kirby acknowledges that United’s move may be divisive, he defends it as the right thing to do for both co-workers and passengers.

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” he writers. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

American and Delta Pause on Mandatory Vaccination Policy

While United is setting a hard deadline for COVID-19 vaccination, other legacy carriers are stopping short of creating policy. Speaking to CNBC, Delta Air Lines president Ed Bastian said making vaccines a requirement could be difficult without full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, while Charlotte Business Journal reports American Airlines is only offering employee incentives for inoculations.

polinka August 12, 2021

Midships, you would be surprised at the education correlation. It's a bell curve. College grads are in the middle, most vaccinated. But post grads goes down and PhDs goes down even further.

health1au August 12, 2021

Nepal's virus response.

Midships August 10, 2021

I suspect no mass exodus of pilots, there is a correlation between vaccine uptake and education levels and pilots are highly educated.

Spanish August 9, 2021

A+++ decision. We need every corporation to do this. Make life downright impossible for the unvaccinated.

mmack August 9, 2021

Great!!! Now, let’s work on the passengers! I live in Hawaii, where you have to show proof of vaccinations or, a negative PCR COVID test to travel. Rising case numbers: unvaccinated Hawaiians. Mandate vaccinations for everyone who is eligible.