The World Health Organization (WHO) has included seafarers on it’s priority vaccine category. They are now placed among groups of transportation workers, which shall be provided with a priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations in the instances of limited supplies.
International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary General Kitack Lim, welcomed the decision, by saying “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.”
“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.” states WHO’s updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap.
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The International Maritime Organization has made calls this year, for the priority vaccination for seafarers. In March, the organization issued a joint statement, with other organizations of the United Nations, which called for seafarers and aircrew to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination. In May 2021, the IMO adopted a resolution which encouraged the priority vaccination for seafarers to be included in the national COVID-19 vaccination programs of it’s member nations. Secretary-General Lim has previously, on many instance called on all IMO Member Nations to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’, and provide them with a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.