United Airlines first carrier to require COVID-19 vaccine for employees or risk firing

United Airlines announced Friday that it will require all 67,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk being fired.

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United is the first domestic airline to make the vaccine a condition of employment, The Washington Post reported.

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” Scott Kirby, United’s chief executive, and Brett Hart, president, wrote to employees, the Post reported. “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.”

“Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” they wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Employees are required to upload proof that they have received either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccines after federal officials fully approve the treatments or Oct. 25, whichever is first, NBC News reported.

Exceptions will be permitted for some health conditions or religious reasons.

United is the latest large company to require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, with others including Google, Facebook and the Walt Disney Company, the Post reported.

Tyson Foods made it a requirement that workers must be vaccinated by Nov. 1, The Wall Street Journal reported.

But United’s move is the first among air carriers, which according to the Post, normally use perks like gift cards or vacation days for those who get the shot. Delta has mandated vaccines for new hires only.

American Airlines is talking the perks route when it comes to vaccinations, encouraging but not requiring its workers to get the COVID-19 shot. If they do so by Aug. 31, employees will get a $50 gift card and an extra vacation day, the Post reported.

United had a reward policy before making the shots mandatory and made it a requirement for new hires, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A majority of United employees have been vaccinated. Company officials said about 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants have received a vaccine, NBC News reported.

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