United is bringing back airport vaccines for staff boosters as omicron spreads

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Health and Science

United Airlines ramp service employee John Dalessandro receives a COVID-19 vaccine at United’s onsite clinic at O’Hare International Airport March 9, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

United Airlines this week began offering vaccines to employees again at some of its busiest airports as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the United States and among its own workforce.

The Chicago-based airline is administering Covid-19 booster shots at several of its busiest hubs: Newark Liberty International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Won Pat International Airport in Guam, spokeswoman Leslie Scott said.

The airline last August set the strictest immunization requirements of any U.S. airline and urged employees to get vaccinated unless they receive a religious or medical exemption or are required to quit. More than 96% of United’s approximately 67,000 employees in the US are vaccinated.

The company suspended its airport vaccination program in late summer.

“This is another step we’re taking to educate our employees on the importance of boosters and make them easily accessible,” said Scott. The company is not currently changing its definition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots, she said.

United’s revival of its airport immunization program follows the rapid spread of Omicron employees, who contributed to 20,000 flight cancellations between Christmas Eve and the first week of January.

United CEO Scott Kirby said Monday that 3,000 of the airline’s approximately 67,000 U.S. employees were absent due to Covid infections and that a third of their employees were at their hub at Newark Liberty International Airport in New York on one of the last few days Jersey have called in sick from the virus. He said that prior to the vaccination order, the company had an average of one Covid-related death per week and that no vaccinated United employees have died from virus-related causes in the past eight weeks.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday that about 1 in 10 of his employees had tested positive for Covid in the past four weeks, but that no serious health problems had been reported.

Delta is offering vaccines to employees and employees’ friends and families at its flight museum near its Atlanta headquarters, spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

Correction: Morgan Durrant is a spokesman for Delta Air Lines; Leslie Scott is a spokeswoman for United Airlines. A previous version of this article misrepresented this information.

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