Rex is set to become the country’s first airline to mandate booster shots for its staff, Australian Aviation can reveal.
It comes amid airlines cancelling domestic flights due to staff either contracting COVID or isolating because they are deemed close contacts.
Deputy chairman John Sharp quietly made the announcement on an interview with 9News’ Today show on Thursday.
It means Rex will be among the very first of any type of business in Australia to enforce a booster.
Earlier this month, Pfizer revealed a third dose of its COVID vaccine would raise its effectiveness against Omicron 25-fold, back to roughly the same level as two jabs against the original virus.
“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive of Pfizer.
Yesterday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said anecdotal evidence from the UK, which is seeing more than 100,000 cases a day, shows up to 90 per cent of COVID patients in ICU haven’t had a booster.
Rex announced in September it would ask all customer-facing staff to be double jabbed by 1 November 2021, while Qantas and Virgin similarly asked for two jabs by 15 November for frontline staff and 31 March 2022 for other employees.
“Rex Airlines was the first to bring in compulsory mask-wearing on planes and we did that at the beginning of the COVID pandemic,” said Sharp. “We were also the first to have our frontline staff all fully vaccinated by 1 November, and we’ll be the first to require all of our staff to have a booster shot.
“We have a policy of cleaning all the touchpoints in the aircraft with proper cleaning agents and we’ve also got onboard hospital-grade air filters to ensure that the air that’s re-circulated within the cabin is as clean as you can possibly make it.”
Vaccines have long been considered key to seeing the aviation industry return to normal operations, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce repeatedly noting that vaccination would become a mandatory requirement for international travellers.
Qantas has also previously suggested that the federal government mandate vaccinations across all frontline aviation workers, due to their frequent interaction with others.
“While all the data shows that the risk of COVID transmission onboard aircraft remains very low, and there are many safeguards at airports, nothing reduces the risk to health like the vaccines approved for use in Australia,” Qantas said.
“That’s critical for our frontline teams, who come into contact with thousands of people each day.”