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Delta becomes first major US employer to refuse to hire unvaccinated workers

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Delta Air Lines has become one of the largest US companies to refuse to hire new employees who have yet to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

CEO Ed Bastian told CNN: “Any person joining Delta in the future we will mandate to get vaccinated before they can sign up with the company.”

The head of the Atlanta-based airline added that he also strongly encourages the company’s existing 75,000 employees to take the vaccine.

In an interview with CNN correspondent Richard Quest, Mr Bastian said that the company would help employees understand the risks of not getting vaccinated.

He added that those who choose not to get their shots of one of the available vaccines against the coronavirus may face restrictions at work — for example, not being able to work on international flights.

To date, some 60 per cent of the company’s employees have had at least one shot. It is expected that eventually 80 per cent of employees will be fully vaccinated.

The airline has been particularly proactive in its rollout of Covid vaccines, establishing a vaccination centre in February at the company museum near its base at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Mr Bastian says that they are administering 5,000 shots a day.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December that employers can legally mandate that new hires and existing employees must be vaccinated in order to work.

There are two exemptions to the rule — a disability or a religious reason.

In terms of existing employees, most companies have so far leaned more on incentives to get vaccinated rather than mandates.

For example, Delta rival American Airlines is giving employees an extra day off and $50 to take the vaccine.

In February, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby doubled down on an earlier statement in which he said he wanted Covid-19 vaccines to be mandatory. He added that he hoped it became standard in corporate America.

More recently, Mr Kirby also said that he believed that passengers who want to fly on long-haul routes would likely need to be vaccinated before travel.

As of Thursday, 58.9 per cent of Americans over the age of 18 have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with 45.6 per cent fully vaccinated.

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