Delta Air Lines in November will start charging unvaccinated workers $200 each month to cover the cost of care should they contract COVID-19, CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday.
"This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company," he said in a memo to employees.
It was the latest move by a major American company to encourage vaccinations, some of which have gone as far as mandating the shots.
While the air carrier said 75 percent of its workforce has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the new, more infectious variant -- which Bastian refrained from referring to by its more common name "Delta" -- is creating new issues for the company.
"In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with Covid were not fully vaccinated," he said.
The average cost for hospitalization was $50,000 per-person, Bastian added.
"While we can be proud of our 75 percent vaccination rate, the aggressiveness of the variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100 percent as possible."
He pointed to this week's announcement that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had received full approval from US regulators as proof the shots are safe and effective.
In addition to the monthly fee, unvaccinated workers immediately will be required to wear masks, and next month will be subject to weekly testing.
After September 30, pay protections will be provided only to fully vaccinated workers should they fall ill with a breakthrough case of COVID-19, he said.
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