Joe Biden held a virtual meeting on Wednesday with the CEOs of United Airlines and Kaiser Permanente as well as the president of Howard University and the owner of a South Carolina-based small business called DESA, Inc. after they each mandated COVID vaccines for their workforces. 

Biden expressed his appreciation for the eclectic group's initiative and 'stepping up to protect the lives of their employees and communities,' according to a White House memo sent afterwards. 

'During the meeting, the leaders shared how they arrived at their decision to require vaccinations and how they are working to implement their own requirements,' the memo read. 

Biden also encouraged them each to try and influence others within their industries to follow suit and share how they made it work. 

Biden praised the industry leaders for the vaccine mandates in a virtual meeting Wednesday

Scott Kirby is CEO of United Airlines
Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick is president of HBCU Howard University
Greg A. Adams is chairman of health care company Kaiser Permanente
Diane E. Sumpter is president and CEO of DESA, Inc., a South Caroline-based professional services firm

He urged the four leaders to convince industry peers to follow suit and mandate vaccines for their employees as well

He promised that the federal government would stand behind private sector businesses that mandated COVID vaccines as the White House continues to try and ramp up vaccination rates that have fallen in recent months.    

The public show of support comes two weeks after Biden required all federal workers - about 4 million people - to sign forms attesting they've been vaccinated.

Those who haven't will have to submit to weekly testing and comply with mask mandates and social distancing. 

'Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, ''If I'd just got the vaccine,'' Biden said in a somber address announcing the measure. 'This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don't have to die.' 

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the first federal agency to require vaccines, mandating them for health care workers. The Pentagon later announced its intent to require vaccines for service members.

United Airlines became the first major US airline to implement a vaccine mandate with a deadline of October for employees to prove their status.

Employees who refuse to show proof of vaccination will be fired unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

The three major airline unions also signaled support for the measure, CNN reports.

In an email to staff obtained by the outlet, the airline says it expects some to disagree.

'But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you're at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,' it states.   

In early May Biden set a goal to have 70 percent of American adults with at least one shot by July 4th, promising a 'summer of freedom.'

Those hopes quickly fell along with the US vaccination rate, but the threshold was finally passed in early August.

Currently just over 71 percent of American adults have at least one shot. Just over 60 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Meanwhile COVID cases have surged to levels not seen since early 2021. So far the US has seen more than 36 million infections and over 618,000 deaths.  

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