President Joe Biden met with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby today to discuss boosting the US vaccination program. The meeting comes less than a week after United became the first airline to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its sprawling 67,000-strong workforce. As the US deals with a fresh wave of infections, airlines and the government are working hard to increase vaccine uptake and prevent further impact.
In a virtual meeting today, President Biden spoke with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and other business leaders about increasing the US’ vaccination rate. As the number of cases rises to its highest levels in six months, the administration is pushing hard to find new ways to get Americans to take the shot.
United has likely found a seat at the table due to a major policy decision it recently announced. The airline will require all of its over 67,000 employees to be fully vaccinated within five weeks of the FDA fully approving a COVID-19 vaccine, or five weeks from September 20th, whichever comes first.
According to Reuters, Kirby was joined by three other leaders at the meeting, the chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, the President of Howard University, and a South Carolina businessman who recently created a mandatory vaccination or frequent testing policy.
This morning, I hosted a virtual meeting with business, university, and health care leaders on COVID-19. We discussed strategies on how we can get more people vaccinated and end this pandemic once and for all. pic.twitter.com/MNtNklLAvI
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 11, 2021
President Biden is making it clear that he is willing to back companies that are pushing their employees to get fully vaccinated, and said last week,
“I will have their backs and the backs of other private and public sector leaders if they take such steps.”
While the US’ plateauing vaccine uptake has been an issue for weeks, a new spike in cases is driving new concerns. The US has now crossed the 100,000 mark for daily infections again this week, a level not seen since February. As in so many countries, the increase is due to the Delta variant, which spreads more easily and could be more deadly.
In addition to rising cases and deaths, the new wave will hurt US airlines and the larger economic recovery. Southwest and Frontier have said that travel demand is slumping as cases rise, potentially ending a strong summer recovery for the airlines. However, there is a way out of this: increasing vaccination rates.
Three US airlines have already made vaccinations mandatory for employees in the last few days alone. While Delta, Southwest, and American are resisting calls for mandates, they are still offering perks to those who get the shot. However, as cases rise and passenger traffic falls, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these stances change.
For now, the US government and airlines are both trying hard to minimize the damage of this latest spike on lives and businesses. However, without higher rates of vaccines, COVID will continue to impact operations in the near future.
What do you think about President Biden’s meeting today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!