Deaths from COVID-19 among vaccinated United Airlines employees fell to zero after the company introduced a vaccination requirement, CEO Scott Kirby said in a memo to employees on Tuesday.
United became the first major US airline to issue a mandate last August requiring 67,000 US employees to either be vaccinated or fired, with some exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
The policy drew criticism from Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who said Kirby’s decision was a “heartless disregard” for the rights of his employees.
As the highly contagious variant of the omicron has lifted the number of cases to new highs while halting air travel, United’s data appears to support the mandate.
“While we have about 3,000 employees currently testing positive for COVID, none of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized,” Kirby told employees in a memo on Tuesday. “Since our vaccination policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100 times lower than that of the general US population.”
There are currently over 100,000 coronavirus patients hospitalized nationwide in the United States, according to the New York Times database. The country also averages more than 500,000 new cases per day, a record.
Kirby added that there were no COVID-related deaths among vaccinated employees for eight straight weeks.
Prior to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, on average more than one United employee per week died, the CEO said.
“Based on United’s previous experience and nationwide data regarding COVID deaths among the unvaccinated,” he added, “this means approximately 8-10 United employees are alive today due to our need for vaccines.”
This does not mean that everything was going smoothly for the airline, since, like the whole country, it had to face a wave of employee illnesses and, as a result, flight cancellations. Kirby noted that nearly a third of the airline’s employees recently reported illness in just one day at Newark Liberty International Airport, United’s major hub.
If only vaccines could protect flight attendants from misbehaving passengers.