Blue Planet Shipping announced that the entire crew of MV Afros has been vaccinated onboard with the USA/EU approved single dose Johnson & Jonhson vaccine. On the occasion, SAFETY4SEA contacted Mrs. Ioanna Vernardou, DPA / CSO, Blue Planet Shipping Safety Quality Environmental Department, to learn more about the vaccination process and spread the message across. ‘’Our strategy is to offer vaccines to all of our seafarers’’ Mrs Vernardou highlighted.
he crew of MV Afros is comprised by 22 persons of Greek, Ukrainian and Philippino nationalities aged from 25 to 62 years old. The vaccination took place onboard during the vessel’s stay at New Orleans, United States of America and has been completed on the 14th of May 2021. As informed, all crew were monitored for any side effects closely by the Company and all are in good health while Company’s protocols for the protection against COVID-19 will continue to be followed strictly.
SAFETY4SEA: Tell us a few words about the vaccination on board MV Afros; Were there any challenges with regards to the arrangements and coordination of the onboard vaccination?
Ioanna Vernardou: Our Medical Service providers Messrs Future Care Inc informed us as soon as the US Government released the information that vaccines will be provided to international seafarers. At that time our MV Afros was heading towards USA, therefore we grabbed the opportunity to vaccinate our crew members. The local coordination was handled by Future Care and our agents Maritime Endeavors at New Orleans, a challenge was to secure the 22 doses of J&J vaccine for everyone as we would never want to be in a position to offer less vaccines than the total number of our crew members and the logistics aspect since the vaccines where transferred from another city to New Orleans and had to be transferred on a cooler onboard.
S4S: What is your company’s strategy with regards to your crew vaccination? How satisfied are you with the process ?Are you planning to proceed with vaccination to other crew members in other places of the world across your fleet as well?
I.V.: Our strategy is to offer vaccines to all of our seafarers. We are looking into all available options from pre-embarkation vaccinations, onboard and even to fly mobile vaccination units. We also assist our seafarers with their appointments while on shore.
S4S: Did you have any conflicts with regards to the vaccination from MV Afros crew members or their families? Have you found any seafarers across your fleet not being willing to be vaccinated?
I.V.: So far we have not met any resistance on the contrary the crew of MV Afros was thrilled. I guess that a Seafarer understands better than anyone the risk of infection and especially the risk of developing the illness amidst the ocean. However we are prepared for these cases as well, for that reason we run vaccination campaigns both for shore and seagoing personnel. A tool we used was “make your own risk assessment” we provided the statistics from WHO, NHS, Greek EODY for cases per population, cases admitted at ICU, deaths and even for vaccines side effects such as chances of blood clot/thrombosis by air travel, oral birth control and by covid-19 versus the cases of blood clot/thrombosis after receiving certain vaccines and then we asked everyone to make their own risk assessments and measure the risks they fear the most.
S4S: Did all crew agree with the vaccine selected (Johnson & Johnson)? Did they need to have a briefing and ask for medical approval ahead of the vaccination?
I.V.: The crew of MV Afros was enthusiastic about the vaccination. Of course all of them had to reply to certain medical questions to the medical personnel and give their consent according to the CDC protocol. We have developed also guidance to be followed after the vaccination for the control of any possible side effects. It is a good practice to split the vaccination when possible, limit down onboard activities to essential only such as watch duties, we also advised Chief Cook to avoid cooking eggs, fish, Chocolate, nuts and other food that could trigger any allergic reaction for 2 days after the vaccination. In practice we should use the same guidance as provided by International Chamber of Shipping and Governments.
S4S: Did the crew appear any serious side effects due to vaccination? How and for how long have you been monitoring their health status afterwards?
I.V.: Our medical providers offer also medical monitoring services to all of our crew members. We have closely monitored each crew member. There were some mild cases of low fever (37 – 37.5 C) for a few hours managed onboard by paracetamol.
S4S: Do you believe there is need for any regulatory update or best practices to harmonize vaccine passport protocols in line with World Health Organisation for vaccinated seafarers?What does the industry need to address towards?
I.V.: Prior to any regulatory action, it is imperative to establish access to vaccines for everyone, worldwide. Seafarers are key workers and need to have special permissions to travel whether they are or not vaccinated. The challenges we faced with crew changes were unprecedented and should not be repeated in any way. Eventually I believe that covid-19 vaccination will be established like the yellow fever card.
S4S: What are your suggestions in order ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew vaccinations, travel and crew changes?
I.V.: I hope that Charterers applying in practice their CSR policies will support Owners in the vaccination effort, instead of those trying to apply clauses hindering crew changes.
S4S: What is your key message to the industry to foster resilience in COVID-19 era?
I.V.: There is no shipping nor trade without healthy and able to perform seafarers, it is our duty to protect them and provide them whatever they need to carry out their job safely.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.