Delta CEO says it’s ‘very hard’ to mandate COVID vaccines before full approval

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Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said Tuesday it’s “very hard” to mandate people be vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel domestically because the shots aren’t yet fully approved.

The Atlanta-based carrier has no plans to require that passengers of domestic flights be vaccinated, he told CNBC.

“It’s very difficult for us to come in and mandate a vaccine that isn’t even federally approved yet. The authorization hasn’t been final yet, so stay tuned,” Bastian reportedly said.

While the Food and Drug Administration has granted an emergency use authorization to the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, the shots have yet to receive a full approval, or biologics license.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun the process of applying for full FDA approval, which could come as soon as late summer or early fall.

Once the shots do have full approval, experts have said it could clear some legal barriers to mandating the vaccines among customers.

For now, though, Delta’s Bastian said the airline is only encouraging people to get it.

“We’re continuing to encourage as much as we can amongst our own people and our customers to get vaccinated,” Bastian said Tuesday morning.

He added that 73 percent of the company’s staff is now fully vaccinated.

Bastian’s comments come as the country sees a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Vaccination rates are ticking up again, but businesses and cities are beginning to take action to mandate people be vaccinated against the disease before entering certain establishments.

Even as daily new cases of COVID-19 tick up, people are traveling more than ever during the pandemic.

On Monday, the Transportation Security Administration reported its fifth-straight day of more than 2 million travelers taking to the skies.

Bastian told CNBC that Delta’s flights were more than 90 percent full over the weekend.

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