As India works to overcome a recent devastating second wave of COVID-19 the government working with private organizations is working to accelerate vaccination efforts for seafarers and other critical segments of the population. Recognizing India’s important role in providing crew to all segments of the maritime industry the goal is to provide vaccinations before seafarers’ next scheduled deployment.
“India plays a very significant role in the global seafarer industry,” the Ministry of Ports and Shipping noted in an official statement. “There have been demands from many quarters to accord priority to seafarers in the vaccination drive in view of the nature of their work.”
As a result, working with the Ministry of Health, a new priority has been placed on giving priority for COVID-19 vaccinations to seafarers. Efforts are underway at six major ports, including Mumbai, Cochin, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata, and Tuticorin, to provide vaccinations.
The Maritime Union of India highlighted the efforts, noting that the government said this week that individuals schedule for international travel for work or education, or to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, should also get priority for vaccinations and second doses. The MUI welcomed the news that the government will reduce the interval between the two-dose vaccinations to 28 days from the prior 84 days. The MUI called for all seafarers to be included in this new procedure.
In addition, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has launched a Vaccination Drive for Indian Seafarers aiming to facilitate vaccines at the most affordable prices for Indian seafarers as a priority in various cities around India.
“It is our duty to keep exploring possibilities in ways we can try to assist our seafarers and their families undergoing tremendous hardships due to the COVID-19 situation in the country,” said ISWAN’s Director of Regions Chirag Bahri. ISWAN said it will also assist companies seeking to arrange for a large number of employees to be vaccinated.
According to ISWAN, its international helpline has received a significant number of calls from Indian seafarers who have shared the various challenges they and their families are facing in India due to the disastrous impact of the second wave of COVID-19. Indian seafarers have reported being unable to join vessels as they could not get vaccinated, which has resulted in increased hardship for the seafarers and their families and worries that they may lose their jobs.
The second wave of COVID-19 peaked across India in mid-May, when the country was experiencing a reported average of over 400,000 new cases a day. While the rate remains very high, on June 8 India reported that cases had fallen for the first time to under 100,000 per day.