United Airlines on Friday became the first major carrier in the United States to require all of its domestic staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, adding to the list of US corporations imposing vaccine mandates on employees as the Delta variant rampages through parts of the nation.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told employees in a memo on Friday. “The facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
United said all of its 67,000 US-based workers will need to show proof of vaccination by furnishing an image of their vaccine card to the company by October 25 or five weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. All of the COVID-19 vaccines in the US still carry experimental status.
Any United employees who want to seek an exemption to the vaccine mandate on health or religious grounds will need to provide documentation to back their claim.
Employees who fail to comply with the mandate will be terminated.
The list of big US corporations forcing staffers to choose between getting jabbed or losing their jobs continues to grow as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus prompts states and cities to reintroduce measures to control the spread of the virus.
On Tuesday, Microsoft said it will require proof of vaccination for employees and visitors entering its US offices. The same day, meat processing giant Tyson Foods said all its office staff must be vaccinated by October 1 and all front-line workers must be fully inoculated by November 1.
The nation’s largest private employer, Walmart, is requiring vaccinations for its white-collar office staff, but not its front-line workers in stores and warehouses. Tech giants Facebook and Google have also enacted vaccine mandates.
In a notable example of a firm showing the door to employees who fail to comply with vaccine orders, news outlet CNN this week fired three employees who came to its New York offices unvaccinated.
Other companies are responding to the Delta variant by electing to postpone their return-to-office plans. On Thursday, Amazon.com, which was aiming to have employees return to offices next month, is now targeting January for that to happen.
Nearly 58 percent of people in the US have received at least one COVID jab, according to Our World in Data.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that even vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors and in public spaces in part of the country where the virus is surging.