The World Health Organization has included seafarers among groups of transportation workers that should be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations in instances of limited supplies.
The WHO’s updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap states: “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.”
International Maritime Organization Secretary General Lim welcomed the decision, 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.”
The IMO has made calls this year for priority vaccination for seafarers, including in March when it issued a joint statement with other UN organizations calling for seafarers and aircrew to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination. In May, IMO adopted a resolution encouraging priority vaccination for seafarers to be included in national COVID-19 vaccination programs, Secretary-General Lim also called on all IMO Member States to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’ and also support a fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.