ATLANTA -- Delta Air Lines is requiring new employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making it one of the largest US companies to issue a mandate.
"Any person joining Delta in the future we will mandate to get vaccinated before they can sign up with the company," CEO Ed Bastian told CNN's Richard Quest in an exclusive interview.
Bastian said that he would "strongly encourage" Delta's existing 75,000 employees to get the vaccine and help them "understand the risk to not get vaccinated." Those who opt out of being vaccinated might face restrictions, such as not being able to work international flights, he said.
More than 60% of the airline's current employees have had at least one shot and it expects that about 80% of employees will be fully vaccinated, he said.
The Atlanta-based company created a vaccination center in February at its museum near the airport. In addition to Delta employees, their friends, families and eligible children can receive their vaccine at the facility. Bastian said it's administering roughly 5,000 shots per day.
"It signals confidence that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe as well as to keep our customers safe because customers knew Delta employees were being tested all throughout the process," Bastian said of the airlines' testing and vaccination procedures.
As the country moves toward fully reopening and vaccinations become more readily available, businesses are exploring whether they can legally mandate new or existing staff to be vaccinated.
In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced companies can legally mandate employees and new hires be vaccinated. But there are two exemptions companies must allow for, according to the EEOC: a disability or religious reasons.
More than 70% of current or recent CEOs at major companies said in March they're open to requiring vaccines. But some of the country's largest employers have shied away from making it a policy for their employees. Instead, they're offering incentives to get the shot.
American Airlines is giving employees who get vaccinated an extra day off next year and $50 in the company's employee recognition program. Target is giving its workers free Lyft rides to vaccination sites.
--CNN's Richard Davis contributed to this report.
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Delta Air Lines will require COVID vaccination for new employees
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