Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it would be providing COVID-19 vaccinations for free to its employees. The administration of the vaccine will be covered by the company’s health plans and likely become available during later phases of the rollout. Meanwhile, 15.1 million people in the US have now received their first doses.
Vaccine free, recipients may pay for jabs
Not providing any specific time-line, the carrier said it would begin once the vaccine had been made “widely available” across the US. No mention has been made whether or not it would be mandatory for Southwest staff to get vaccinated, or which, if any, group of staff would be prioritized.
“We have teams working to identify third parties who can provide vaccines to our employees as soon as they are able to do so – likely during later phases in the vaccine roll-out plan,” Southwest said in a statement seen by Reuters.
The COVID-19 vaccine itself is free in the United States. It is paid for by the federal government. However, providers may still charge for the care. This means that while people may not pay for the actual substance, they could pay for the administration of the jab.
Simple Flying has reached out to Southwest for more detail on the story but was yet to receive a response at the time of publication. This article will be updated when more information becomes available.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
What are other airlines doing?
We are yet to hear of specific vaccination plans from other major US carriers. However, American Airlines has told its pilots that they should see about getting vaccinated on their “days off”, while the company prepares a broader voluntary program for staff. The carrier affirmed that to get vaccinated was a “personal choice.”
Meanwhile, Dubai-based Emirates earlier this week began offering its employees shots of the Pfizer BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines. The administering of the doses are done in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, and the program prioritizes staff that most often come into contact with passengers.
Singapore Airlines has set the ambitious project of having all of its employees vaccinated within two months. Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said that it would be an important step towards reestablishing Singapore and Changi Airport as a major international hub.
Where is the vaccine rollout in the US now?
At the time of writing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that about 15.1 million people across the US have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Close to 2.4 million have been fully vaccinated. This is a much slower start than the federal government had planned. Intentions were to have given the first shot to 20 million people by the start of 2021.
Thus far, the US government has purchased 400 million doses. Half of these are from Pfizer-BioNTech, and half are from Moderna. As they both require two shots, this means it is enough to vaccinate 200 million people. The US has a population of about 329 million people, and additional orders are most likely forthcoming.
Do you think airline workers should have priority when it comes to vaccination? Tell us in the comment section.