By Tracy Rucinski
(Reuters) - American Airlines plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines to its employees at medical clinics at its hub airports once they are available, with inoculation for Chicago-based employees possible as soon as next month, a director told Reuters.
"There are a lot of efforts underway to try to secure the vaccine as soon as we can," said Jennifer Saddy, managing director of absence management, who is part of the team leading American's vaccine efforts.
American is not requiring the vaccine for employees but is working on a plan with local health authorities and its medical partner Premise, which has filed the necessary paperwork to get access to the vaccine as soon as possible, she said.
The company is still working out details but will likely offer the vaccine to employees by appointment or on a walk-in basis.
A memo to American's pilots said called the decision to take the vaccines "personal."
"As such, if you elect to take the vaccine you should schedule it on your days off and so that it does not impact your ability to be in place and operate your scheduled flying given the 48-hour requirement," American's managing director of line operations, Chip Long, and managing director of flight operations, John Dudley, said in the memo, reviewed by Reuters.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said pilots and controllers must not fly or conduct safety-related duties for 48 hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Asked about the memo, American Airlines said it is working on plans to provide the vaccine to pilots and other employees as it becomes available in different states but does not plan to require them unless they are mandated by certain countries for entry.
Inoculation against the disease caused by the coronavirus is considered key to safely reopening large parts of the U.S. economy.
Air travel has been particularly hit hard by the pandemic, and strict rules putting health-care workers first in line has slowed the rollout in the United States. States are now being urged to vaccinate anyone over 65 as well.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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