LOS ANGELES - United Airlines said it will begin terminating the employment of workers who have declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine in violation of the company’s policy.
In a memo obtained by FOX TV Stations, the company wrote that more than 99% of its 90,000-plus workforce has gotten vaccinated.
A United Airlines spokesperson confirmed the company has already begun a process to terminate the employment of 593 people who have chosen not to comply with the company’s vaccine requirement policy.
"For the less than 1% of people who decided to not get vaccinated, we’ll unfortunately begin the process of separation from the airline," the memo wrote. "This was an incredibly difficult decision but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority. The pandemic is now killing more than 2,000 people per day — a 65% increase in just the past 30 days — and the most effective way to keep our people safe, is to make sure they’re vaccinated."
The move follows a sweeping workplace vaccine requirement from the Biden administration requiring employers with more than 100 workers to require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly tests for the virus. Federal workers are also required to get vaccinated, as are members of the U.S. military.
In the face of the most recent COVID-19 surge, more companies have announced their own vaccine requirements in hopes of increasing pressure on employees to get the shots.
Lawyers with the Justice Department determined that federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private businesses from mandating COVID-19 vaccines under emergency use authorization according to an opinion posted by the DOJ last month, FOX News reported.
The U.S. hit a critical milestone on Wednesday: 200 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Approximately 212.6 million people, or 64% of the total U.S. adult population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our top priority remains first and second shots. Overall, more than three out of four eligible Americans — those Americans 12 and older — have gotten at least their first shot," said Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, in a briefing on Tuesday.
Vaccination mandates from President Joe Biden and other businesses and state governments across the country come as the number of Americans getting the shots began to plateau.
United Airlines’ move to fire employees over their refusal to get vaccinated could be the first of many terminations to come by major employers.
Hospitals and nursing homes around the U.S. are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
With ultimatums taking effect this week in states like New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine.
About a dozen states have vaccination mandates covering health care workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities or both. Some allow exemptions on medical or religious grounds, but those employees often must submit to regular COVID-19 testing.
States that have set such requirements tend to have high vaccination rates already. The highest rates are concentrated in the Northeast, the lowest ones in the South and Midwest.
The Biden administration also will require the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated under a rule still being developed.