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  • Delta Air Lines recently said its staff must either get vaccinated or pay more for health insurance.
  • Within two weeks of the announcement, 20% of Delta's unvaccinated workers chose to get the vaccine.
  • The penalty, which takes effect November 1, is a $200 monthly surcharge for Delta's healthcare plan.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Delta Air Lines' recently announced penalty for unvaccinated workers has already encouraged about one-fifth of them to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The carrier said last month that it would soon start charging unvaccinated staff $200 more per month for its health insurance plan. Delta said the penalty would take effect on November 1 to factor in the financial risk Delta is incurring by having unvaccinated workers.

In the two weeks since Delta announced the extra fee, nearly 20% of its 20,000 unvaccinated workers have chosen to get the COVID-19 shot, according to Henry Ting, Delta's chief health officer. Ting called the figure "a huge number in terms of shifting that group that's most reluctant." He made the remarks in a recent media briefing held by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Delta has not seen any employee turnover or resignations as a result of the surcharge news, Ting added.

When the extra fee was announced, roughly 74% of Delta's 80,000 employees were vaccinated against COVID-19. In the two weeks following, Delta's employee vaccination rate climbed to 78%, Ting said.

In announcing the surcharge last month, Delta also said the average hospital stay for COVID-19 costs the airline $50,000 per person. The airline added that all Delta workers who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks weren't fully vaccinated.

As of Sunday, Delta employees in the US who aren't fully vaccinated are required to take COVID-19 tests every week. Delta announced in May that all of its new hires would be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting September 30, Delta will only offer COVID-19 pay protection to fully vaccinated employees who get a breakthrough infection. American Airlines recently made a similar move, announcing it would stop offering pandemic leave to unvaccinated workers. The change, which takes effect in October, means unvaccinated workers will need to use their own sick days or medical leave to take time off if they get COVID-19. Alaska Airlines has also done the same. United Airlines said in August that it would require all US-based employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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