Unite Nations organizations this week issued a joint call for the world's seafarers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, stressing their key role in supporting global trade.
The heads of five UN organizations have called for maritime and air transport workers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.
Seafarers and aircrew are key workers, required to travel across borders, which may—though contrary to WHO recommendations—result in the need for them to present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entry in some countries. the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has said seafarers' lack of access to vaccinations is placing shipping in a "legal minefield", while leaving global supply chains vulnerable.
The UN Crisis Management Team for COVID-19, under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), has recognized that all countries should consider seafarers and aircrew, who are required to travel across borders during the pandemic, as a priority group for vaccination against COVID-19.
"For shipping and air transport to continue to operate safely, the safe cross border movement of seafarers and aircrew must be facilitated. We reiterate our call upon countries that have not done so to designate seafarers and aircrew as key workers," says the joint statement, signed by the heads of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The joint statement calls on governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs, together with other essential workers, in accordance with the WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines in the context of limited supplies.
"Seafarers and aircrew need to be protected through vaccination as soon as possible, to facilitate their safe movement across borders. We also call on governments to identify and prepare for the challenges of COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers and aircrew, particularly for seafarers spending long periods of time away from their home country," the statement said.
The organizations state their full support for the timely development of an international harmonized framework for vaccination certificates, to facilitate international travel for seafarers and aircrew.