The World Health Organization has now named seafarers as transportation workers that should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.
This development comes as WHO warns that COVID-19 vaccine supply inequity could have a lasting and profound impact on socio-economic recovery.
More specifically, WHO released the updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap, in order to provide a framework for overall program priorities as well as vaccine-specific recommendations. As it says, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) includes:
Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions
IMO commented on this decision, with Secretary-General Kitack Lim welcoming the World Health Organization’s decision.
As it Mr. Lim says:
I am glad to see that the WHO recognises the importance of vaccinating seafarers on cargo ships. These individuals are responsible for transporting over 80% of all goods around the world, including food, medicine and vaccine supplies – and have continued to do so despite extremely challenging circumstances. Seafarers will play a key role in the global recovery, and barriers to international travel and crew change must be removed
What is more, the SAGE guidance aims to provide guidance for overall programme priorities as well as vaccine-specific recommendations and consists of three steps:
Step 1: A values framework;
Step 2: Roadmap for prioritizing uses of COVID-19 vaccines;
Step 3: Vaccine-specific recommendations.
The vaccine prioritization roadmap considers priority populations for vaccination based on epidemiologic setting and vaccine supply scenarios and can be used by countries to shape their national response to the pandemic
says the IMO.
Furthermore, the IMO has made a number of calls for priority vaccination for seafarers, including issuing a joint statement with other UN organizations in March 2021, calling for seafarers and aircrew to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.
Finally, in May, IMO adopted a resolution which encouraged priority vaccination for seafarers in national COVID-19 vaccination programmes and Secretary-General Lim called on all IMO Member States to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’ and support a fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
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