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Belgium starts campaign to vaccinate international seafarers

Photo - Daniel Schludi: Unsplash daniel-schludi-mAGZNECMcUg-unsplash.jpg
International seafarers will eligible for vaccination at ports in Belgium from today, 26 July.

Under the campaign launched by the Belgian Shipowner Association, the Taskforce Vaccination and the Directorate General ShippingVaccination for all seafarers, regardless of nationality or vessel flag, will be available at the ports of Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge with the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine.

“To facilitate the accessibility of the seafarers to the vaccination campaign, mobile medical vaccination teams will be sent to ships at berth, to provide the vaccinations directly on board. The mobile medical vaccination teams will operate from two maritime medical centers in Antwerp and Zeebrugge, covering the ports of Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge,” ship agency GAC said.

Agents ISS said that vaccination would be available onboard for crew of five or more.

“The campaign is applicable to seafarers of all nationalities serving on board any type or category of seagoing ship calling in the ports of Antwerp, Ghent or Zeebrugge, who have not yet received a doses of an European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved COVID-19 vaccine in the last 12 months,” GAC said.

Belgium was the first country in Europe vaccination of its national seafarers against Covid-19. The Netherlands is currently vaccinating all seafarers serving on Dutch-flagged vessels. At the end of June Cyprus announced plans to vaccinate 40,000 seafarers on any vessel flying the Cypriot flag and of those managed from the nation.

Despite repeated calls for seafarers to be given priority for vaccination given their role as front line workers progress has been slow, with ports in the US the primary location where vaccination with the J&J vaccine has been available for international seafarers.

In Asia Singapore said earlier this month it was working on a protocol for the vaccination of international seafarers similar to its crew change protocol.