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Alaska Airlines considering worker vaccine mandate once FDA gives approval

Three airlines are requiring workers to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Alaska Airlines could join them.

Alaska Airlines said Wednesday it is looking at whether to require its 20,000 employees be vaccinated for COVID-19, joining three other major airlines. But the company said the mandate would not come until a vaccine gets full approval.

"Due to the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, we are looking closely at whether we will require that employees are vaccinated," an Alaska spokesperson said in a statement. "If we do, the requirement would not be effective until at least one vaccine is fully approved by the FDA and would include appropriate religious and medical exemptions."

The FDA has given emergency use authorization to vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Reports in recent days indicate the Pfizer vaccine could be fully approved in early September.

"We have a duty to keep our employees safe," the statement continued. "The contagiousness and health risks of the COVID-19 virus and its variants affect our employees and the communities we serve. Safety is our highest value and we have an imperative to protect one another from this virus.”

United Airlines announced last week that it will require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Hawaiian Airlines followed with a similar announcement Monday, and Frontier will require workers who don't get vaccinated to undergo “regular” testing for the virus.

Southwest, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have stuck to their strategy of encouraging workers to get the shots but not requiring it. The one exception is Delta, which says it is requiring vaccines for new hires.

Thus far, no major airlines are requiring passengers to be vaccinated, but a federal mask mandate for airlines remains in place.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.