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Emirates Tells Anti-Vax Cabin Crew, Pilots to Get Vaccinated or Pay for Regular PCR Tests

Emirates Tells Anti-Vax Cabin Crew, Pilots to Get Vaccinated or Pay for Regular PCR Tests

Cabin crew, pilots and other frontline employees at the Dubai-based airline Emirates have been told that they will have to pay out of their own pocket for regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 nasal swab tests if they decline to be vaccinated against the novel Coronavirus.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has currently authorised three vaccines for emergency use including the Pfizer / BioNTech jab and Oxford AstraZeneca shot, as well as a vaccine developed and manufactured by the Chinese biotech company Sinopharm. Nearly half of Emirates’ UAE-based frontline workforce have already received both doses of one of the approved vaccines.

But a worldwide supply crunch on Pfizer jabs means that authorities have been offering more people the Sinopharm jab. Healthcare workers have faced issues encouraging expat workers that the vaccine offers the same level of protection and safety as that of jabs approved for use in Europe and North America.

In order to overcome vaccine hesitancy, the UAE government recently rubberstamped new laws that allow employers to make unvaccinated workers take regular PCR tests at their own expense. Vaccination remains voluntary and employees cannot be sacked for refusing to be vaccinated.

Employees who are currently not eligible for vaccination due to health reasons must also be regularly tested but will be exempted from paying for the tests.

Unlike Etihad Airways in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, cabin crew and pilots do not have to be vaccinated in order to work on a flight and there are no other restrictions on their movements. Around 5,000 flight crew have so far accepted one of the approved shots according to the latest figures released by the airline.

Etihad Airways only operates flights with fully vaccinated crew and restricts the movements of crew who decline to have the jab.

In contrast, American Airlines recently revealed that it would incentivize employees to be vaccinated by offering an extra vacation day and $50 in value for use on an internal awards programme.

Similar incentivisation schemes have been introduced by several other hospitality companies.

Scott Kirby, chief executive of United Airlines has suggested that he would support a mandatory vaccination requirement for airline staffers. United has not introduced such a policy but is actively encouraging vaccination uptake and has opened its own vaccination centre at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

In a bid to roll out vaccines to its entire UAE-based workforce, Emirates has opened pop-up vaccination centres across Dubai. The UAE has been one of the leading countries in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines – according to Our World in Data, the UAE has administered over 63 shots per 100 people as of March 6.

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