United Airlines is requiring virtually all of its 67,000 US employees to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 by no later than Oct. 25, or risk termination. The move is a first among major US carriers. Citing what they called “incredibly compelling” evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines, United CEO Scott Kirby and president Brett Hart said in note to employees that the decision a matter of safety. “The facts are crystal clear: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
United employees will be required to provide proof of having got two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose, either five weeks after the vaccines receive full FDA approval or by Oct. 25, whichever is first. The airline said exceptions will be made for certain health issues or religious reasons. Further, the requirement does not apply to regional airlines operating for United.
United is requiring employees to be vaccinated despite the fact that, so far, the COVID-19 vaccines currently available have received only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The lack of a fully-approved shot has caused many companies to shy away from mandating vaccination as a condition of employment. Reportedly, the FDA is pushing to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by early September.
Companies such as Facebook, Walmart and Uber have started to require proof of vaccination for certain categories of workers. However United’s competitors have not gone so far as to insist on vaccine mandates for all workers, choosing instead to rely on incentives. “We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” Kirby told employees. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work.”