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COVID-19 crisis: Air India pilots' union threatens strike if members not vaccinated at the earliest

In its statement, the union said with no healthcare support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut pilots are in no position to continue risking their lives without vaccination.

May 04, 2021 / 07:00 PM IST
In her Union Budget 2021-22 speech on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had set an ambitious divestment target of Rs 1.75 crore.

In her Union Budget 2021-22 speech on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had set an ambitious divestment target of Rs 1.75 crore.


The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), the pilots’ union of national carrier Air India on May 4 demanded the airline’s management to vaccinate all flying crew above 18 years of age on priority.

The pilot’s body, in a statement, warned it will stop work if the demand was not met. Moneycontrol has seen a copy of the statement.

"If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a Pan India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will stop work," the union said.

T Praveen Keerthi, general secretary of ICPA, raised the issue with Air India Director R S Sandhu, claiming that the management has left the flying crew vulnerable.

In its statement, the union said with no healthcare support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut pilots are in no position to continue risking their lives without vaccination.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The demand from the pilot's body comes at a time when India has been struggling with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic as hospitals in several states are reeling under a severe shortage of drugs, oxygen and beds.

Air India has been operating flights since the lockdown was partially lifted last year, bringing in Indian nationals stranded abroad during the pandemic. They also ferried supplies of medication and hospital equipment, including personal protective equipment kits and other items -- to remote corners of the country.
The Indian government has opened up vaccination drives for those above the age of 18. However, several hospitals across the country are either struggling with vaccine slots or stock.


The union added that many of its members have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are struggling to get oxygen cylinders.


Last week, around 30 people on board Air India's Amritsar-Rome flight were found positive for COVID-19 on arrival, with at least two of the 30 people being flight crew members.

On May 4, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India rose to 2.028 crore as of 0800 IST today, with 357,229 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, according to health ministry data.

The number of active cases rose by 33,491 in the past 24 hours. The total number of active cases now stands at 34.47 lakhs.

So far, the virus has claimed 222,408 lives, while 1.66 crore people have recovered. The total number of people who have been vaccinated reached 15.89 crore.

Yaruqhullah Khan
first published: May 4, 2021 06:58 pm

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