Days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Delta Air Lines is turning up the pressure on its unvaccinated employees.
On Wednesday, the airline announced that a $200 monthly surcharge would be deducted from the paychecks of unvaccinated workers on the company’s health plan beginning in November, the Star Tribune reported.
That adds up to a whopping $2,400 annual pay cut.
“With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, wrote in a memo.
Bastian said the Atlanta-based airline has incurred expenses amounting to approximately $50,000 per worker hospitalized with COVID-19.
“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” he said.
As someone who contracted (and recovered from) COVID-19, and who saw immediate family members struggle with symptoms as well, I can say I know the dangers of the virus firsthand.
I’ve also heard from extended family members who were hospitalized with COVID-19 — so I’m well aware of the costs insurers are incurring from this pandemic.
In fact, the CARES Act of 2020 requires insurers to reimburse providers for COVID-related medical services and testing.
However, the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing hospitalization is up for debate in many circles, especially considering a few numbers.
For one, data from Israel shows that nearly 60 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have been fully vaccinated.
Israel ranks among the most highly vaccinated countries, with 78 percent of residents age 12 and older having received both shots.
It’s important to note that the higher the percentage of fully vaccinated people, the higher the number of fully vaccinated hospital patients will likely be. (Think about a group of ten fully vaccinated people compared to a group of 100 fully vaccinated people; we’d expect the number of those hospitalized in the latter group to be significantly higher since we’re taking from a larger sampling).
Likewise, communities with low vaccination rates will have lower percentages of hospitalized patients who’ve been fully vaccinated.
Last month, U.K. Health Minister Sir Patrick Vallance revealed that up to 40 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the country had been fully vaccinated.
That’s not the only startling data out of Britain.
“More vaccinated people are dying of COVID than unvaccinated people, according to a recent report from Public Health England,” Yahoo News reported in July.
Of course, we’re led to believe this is the expected result, that this is perfectly normal and that it’s no cause for concern.
You can do with that explanation what you will.
Needless to say, with cases on the rise (despite a rising number of fully vaccinated people), we’re treading some muddy waters here.
What will Delta do when its fully vaccinated employees slap them with medical expenses?
Will everyone eventually be forced to pay a COVID fee as a financial safety net for the company?
There’s no suggestion of that yet, but we’ve seen some unprecedented developments since the outbreak of the pandemic. Perhaps it isn’t an unreasonable question to ask.
And what of employees who do not wish to get vaccinated?
About 75 percent of Delta’s workforce has received both shots and the rate of vaccination among pilots is somewhere between 80 and 85 percent, according to the Star Tribune.
The outlet also noted that the $200 monthly fee instantly prompted concerns of health discrimination, but that the consensus among the “experts” is that the move is “likely permissible” under current law.
The question, then, boils down to whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.
That should be up for individuals to decide for themselves, and their decision — if it goes against the establishment narrative — shouldn’t subject them to fines and discrimination.
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