More Delta employees get vaccinated after insurance surcharge announced

More Delta Air Lines employees are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 since the company announced that those who aren’t will see a health care insurance surcharge of $200 a month.

About 20,000 of Atlanta-based Delta’s 80,000 employees were still unvaccinated when the airline announced the penalty two weeks ago, according to the company’s chief health officer Henry Ting.

Now, about 20% of those unvaccinated employees have decided to get the shots, Ting said during an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing on Thursday.

As a result, 78% of Delta employees are now vaccinated.

The surcharge won’t take effect until Nov. 1. So far, “we’ve seen no employee turnover” as a result, Ting said.

A survey last December by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 28% of workers said they would not get the vaccine even if it meant losing their jobs.

But, “while people are saying that, there is a great degree of cognitive dissonance around what they will actually do,” said the organization’s chief knowledge officer, Alexander Alonso. Employers estimate that less than 2% of employees have left their jobs because of a vaccine mandate or an employer strongly encouraging vaccination, he added.

Still, it’s too soon to tell what the effect of such mandates will be.

Delta is using the surcharge as a penalty, instead of requiring vaccines for all employees. But the airline is mandating that new hires be vaccinated. Even so, Ting said there still has been strong interest in jobs at Delta.

Before announcing the surcharge, the company incentivized employees with paid time off and financial rewards.

The first 20,000 to 40,000 employees who got vaccinated were “rushing in line” to get them, Ting said. However, the last 20,000 who are not vaccinated “are very, very different” and are “the most reluctant amongst any group.”

“They’re not homogenous. Talking to them, many of them are scared. Many of them have a lot of misinformation and are afraid,” Ting said. Some may choose never to get vaccinated, he acknowledged.

But a large percentage are people who are on the fence and still gathering information,” he said. Some “may not have gotten around it” and are ambivalent, or were waiting for FDA approval, he said.

“There’s a group of people who simply don’t want to be told what to do,” Ting said. “They want to gather information themselves and make a decision for themselves.”