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United CEO says vaccine mandate has brought ‘weekly’ staff deaths to an end

The CEO of United Airlines has told his staff in an open letter that the company’s vaccine mandate has ended the “weekly” deaths that previously plagued the organisation.

There are still 3,000 United employees who are infected with the virus, but Scott Kirby told his staff that “zero of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalised”.

“Prior to our vaccine requirement, tragically, more than one United employee on average *per week* was dying from Covid,” Mr Kirby wrote.

“But we’ve now gone eight straight weeks with zero Covid-related deaths among our vaccinated employees – based on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to Covid fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement,” he added.

The company disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of 2020 that it had 74,400 employees. They became the first US airline to require vaccinations for staff in August of last year.

Mr Kirby said that within some groups at the airline, the mandate remains unpopular, but he added that it was “the right thing to do”.

“In dealing with Covid, zero is the word that matters – zero deaths and zero hospitalizations for vaccinated employees,” Mr Kirby told his employees. “And while I know that some people still disagree with our policy, United is proving that requiring the vaccine is the right thing to do because it saves lives.”

“Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalisation rate among our employees has been 100x lower than the general population in the US,” he wrote.

The recent surge in cases amid the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has created large problems for several airlines, with thousands of flights being cancelled as the virus travels among passengers and staff. The holiday period was especially difficult for the airlines.

Mr Kirby said a third of United workers at Newark Liberty International Airport called in sick on a single day during the spike.

The White House Deputy Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement, Ben Wakana, shared the letter on Twitter, writing: “Before United Airlines’ vax requirement, one employee was dying *each week* from covid. Today, 3k employees have covid at United. ZERO (0!) are hospitalized and none have died. the difference. That’s vaccines. That’s a requirement.”

CDC data states that about 71.5 per cent of Americans over the age of 12 have received two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or one shot of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine.

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