Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek on Thursday defended the media and entertainment giant's decision to require all of its salaried and non-union employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, telling CNBC the action is about "the greater good."
In an interview on CNBC's "Mad Money," host Jim Cramer asked Chapek whether Disney workers who do not meet the end-of-September vaccination deadline would be fired from their jobs. Chapek did not address the question specifically.
"We believe what we'd like to do is convince them that it's in everyone's best interest in order to get vaccinated for the greater good ... and the greater good includes our guests," said Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in February 2020, right as the coronavirus began to wreak havoc on the globe. "It goes back to that contract that we have with our guests, that we'll operate responsibly."
Disney announced its vaccination policy July 30. At the time, the company said it had commenced discussions on vaccine mandates with labor unions representing additional employees, such as theme park workers.
A number of other large corporations have recently rolled out more strict vaccine requirements, including McDonald's this week. The fast-food chain said Wednesday it was delaying its return-to-work date for corporate employees and requiring them to be vaccinated.
It comes against the backdrop of increasing spread of the highly contagious Covid delta variant, leading to a reversal in months of falling U.S. coronavirus case counts. Outbreaks of the delta variant hit parts of the country with lower vaccination rates particularly hard, which health experts said underscored the benefits offered by the Covid shots and their crucial role in keeping the pandemic at bay.
The vaccines have proven to be safe and highly effective at reducing risk of developing severe Covid. However, there has been some opposition corporate or government mandates. At present, nearly 59% of all Americans currently eligible to receive the Covid vaccine — those ages 12 and up — have been fully vaccinated, while 69% have received at least one shot, according to CDC data.
"We believe that vaccinations are the key to really mitigating the impact of this pandemic, and we here at Disney don't control what the rest of the world does, but we do have a quarter of a million cast members that we'd love to see vaccinated," Chapek said. "We think we owe it to them, being in the public eye, but we also owe it to our guests at the same time."
Chapek's comments on "Mad Money" came shortly after the company reported third-quarter fiscal results that exceeded Wall Street's expectations on revenue, earnings per share and streaming subscriber growth. Shares of Disney popped more than 5% in after-hours trading.