United Airlines said Friday it will require all of its U.S.-based workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October, making it the first major airline to take the step amid a steady drumbeat of employer mandates across the country.
“We have learned a lot about this disease, including how vaccines are – by far – the most effective way to protect people from COVID-19,” the company said in a memo to employees.
A United executive told CNN it is not issuing a similar rule for passengers because that kind of requirement would be up to the government.
United employs about 67,000 people in the U.S. Employees must upload a vaccination card showing two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson version to a company portal.
United employees must upload the card five weeks after full approval of a vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration or five weeks after Sept. 20 (Oct. 25), whichever comes first.
The company said it structured the timeline that way due to media reports that said the Pfizer shots could be fully approved by early September.
Employees who are already vaccinated or get it done by Sept. 20 will be rewarded with an additional day of pay.
The memo said CEO Scott Kelly has sent dozens of condolence letters to family members of United employees who died of COVID-19.
They don’t want to have to send more.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” the memo said. “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.”
The company also reminded employees that it is not alone in requiring the shots.
“In the past few weeks, you’ve likely read about actions by federal, state and local governments, Fortune 100 companies, higher education institutions and health care groups to require vaccinations,” the memo said. “And more than 50 medical groups now support these kinds of requirements including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association.”