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A missing link in the vaccination puzzle


The industry is alarmed at the low vaccine rate, yet misses an important component

Neptune Declaration’s Crew Change Indicator reflected only 15.3 per cent of seafarers are vaccinated, and anticipated the crew change crisis to continue. However, there are no actions taken to ensure seafarers are suitable for the vaccines.

Split about vaccines
It is heartening to know that some vaccination programmes for seafarers are in place. Though the rate can be quicker, the issue of side effects stemming from allergic reactions remains overlooked. One of the biggest factors contributing to the slow rate is fear of allergic reactions, apart from supply shortage.

In June, Dennis Svane Hansen of Group Crewing Services from BW Group said its vaccination survey revealed 5 per cent of respondents were unwilling to be vaccinated, and 10 per cent were unsure. Hansen added seafarers were also asked if they were willing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is the one BW provided. They had 10 per cent unwilling and 20 per cent undecided.

As at August 2021, the Crew Change Indicator was expanded to include the aggregate percentage of seafarers who have been vaccinated. Apart from the 15.3 per cent vaccinated, the population of fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in large shipping nations in Europe, North America and Asia is at around 50 per cent.

Ensure medical compatibility
Kasper Søgaard, Managing Director, Head of Institutional Strategy and Development, Global Maritime Forum, is still strongly advocating the recognition of seafarers as key workers and be granted priority to vaccines. This is key to protect seafarers’ wellbeing and the functioning of global supply chains. Seafarers are starting to get vaccinated, especially those from developed countries. Programmes in the US and some European countries are offering vaccines to international seafarers, but many more countries must follow suit to solve the crew change crisis,Søgaard stressed.

The primary reason behind hesitance is side effects and dangers. That resulted in the prolonged crew change crisis; border restrictions and seafarers side-lined for employment due to preference for vaccinated personnel. Ship managers identified the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Venezuela and Latvia as the areas with the largest challenge is securing the vaccine supplies. Nonetheless, more can be done to assure the seafarers of medical compatibility, rather than focusing only on recognising them as key workers. That would greatly help in encouraging seafarers to be vaccinated.


Crewing Online News Team
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