Amid the COVID-19 vaccine phase, the International Chamber of Shipping has issued a practical guide in an effort to tackle the spread of vaccine misinformation among crews.
According to ICS, the social media often lead to the spread of inaccuracies around vaccines, resulting to make crew less willing to be vaccinated. Some crew may also be reticent due to religious concerns over vaccines containing alcohol or meat products.
At the moment, it’s unclear how many crew are hesitant to have vaccinations. But polling evidence has found reluctance to be widespread in the general population, running as high as 30% in the US and even 40% in some European Union countries such as France.
Therefore, ‘Vaccination for Seafarers and Shipping Companies: A Practical Guide ’, includes straightforward information on the different types of vaccine available globally, and their safety benefits for all parties involved in global maritime.
This is to counter “anti-vaxx” misinformation circulating online that might be dissuading crew from taking up the vaccine.
…Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General said.
What is more, in an exclusive interview with SAFETY4SEA, Mr Platten highlighted that vaccinations against Covid-19 should start for all seafarers soonest possible as they are experiencing fatigue and distress after such extended periods at sea
For the record, the guide was co-produced with the International Maritime Health Association, Intertanko, and the International Transport Federation (ITF) and is being circulated to shipowners for use amongst crews.
- What is a vaccine and how does it work?
Vaccination is a safe, simple and effective way to protect people from a disease before actual exposure to it.Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies and other cells that fight disease, just as if a person was exposed to the disease itself. When a vaccine is given, the immune system responds by:
- Recognising the germ (bacteria or virus) as foreign and identifying it;
- Producing antibodies. These are proteins produced naturally by the immune system to fight disease; and
- Remembering the disease and how to fight it. If the body sees the same germ again, it can recognise it and
fight it quickly to stop the illness.
- COVID-19 vaccines
COVID-19 vaccines target the spike protein, the part of the virus that allows it to bind to and then enter human cells. Currently over 50 vaccines are in clinical trials and many more are in the pre-clinical stages.
- Are vaccines safe?
All vaccines must undergo many phases of trials, first in a laboratory and then in human volunteers, before approval for use in the wider population.
Appropriate national, regional or international authorities review and analyse the trial results. The authorities review the vaccine components, their quality, safety and effectiveness. When national and regional authorities are satisfied that the vaccine is both effective at preventing disease in humans and safe to administer to people, it is authorised for use in the country or region.
The World Health Organization (WHO) comprehensively evaluates available evidence and regularly updates its vaccine position papers. The process to develop and monitor vaccines is described in the figure below.
- Who can have the COVID-19 vaccines?
Everyone should be encouraged to have the vaccine including:
- People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 following testing
- Women wishing to have children
- How soon does protection start after having the vaccine?
Protection starts to develop approximately 12 days after the injection is given.
- How can I get the vaccine?
Currently COVID-19 vaccines can only be accessed through national, government-run vaccination programmes. The industry is reviewing ways for seafarers to obtain authorised vaccines in the near term.
- How long does immunity last and how often will I need a vaccine?
Ongoing studies to establish how long a person is immune to the COVID-19 virus after vaccination with different vaccines will determine how often a vaccine is required, for example, annually like the flu vaccine or less frequently.
- Are there any side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are reported to be mild and short lived, lasting up to 48 hours. Serious side effects are reported to be extremely rare. Side effects can occur after the first or second dose. Local reactions such as pain, redness and swelling are not uncommon, particularly in those under 55 years. Up to 50% may suffer headache, fever or fatigue.
These side effects respond well to Paracetamol and usually settle within two days. If symptoms persist, the seafarer should approach the officer responsible for medical care who should then contact Telemedical Advisory Services (TMAS).
- Do I need to observe all rules, quarantine and travel restrictions after being vaccinated?
Yes, you currently need to observe all quarantine rules and travel restrictions. These may change over time.
- Is it important to know what type of vaccine I have been given?
Yes it is important. It is currently unclear whether the authorities in different countries will accept all vaccines available today or in the near future to permit entry within their borders.
It is always recommended that information about the vaccine is obtained and hard or electronic copies to certify proof of vaccination are obtained and are kept safely together with the seafarers’ travel documents.
Speaking of vaccines, ICS recently warned that the lack of access to vaccinations for seafarers is placing shipping in a ‘legal minefield’ while leaving global supply chains vulnerable.
Concluding, apart from the guide, ICS launched an accompanying video, which features seafarers from across the world discussing how vaccines will improve their ability to carry out their day-to-day roles.
Seafarers must travel across borders as part of their day-to-day role and to do that they may soon need to provide evidence they have been vaccinated. We must ensure that governments prioritise seafarers as keyworkers and do not put them at the back of the vaccine queue. This is vital, especially as they will be responsible for much of the world’s vaccine roll out.
…Guy Platten concluded.