Consistent with the goals laid out by the Biden Administration, the SIU has been leading the charge for mariners to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. That aim became easier last month, as Biden announced that every adult in the U.S. became eligible to register for a vaccine.
While the statistics change daily, as of April 8, an estimated 64.4 million people in the U.S. had been fully vaccinated; overall, 171 million doses had been administered.
As of that same date, more than 558,000 Americans had died from COVID-19 since the pandemic’s onset last year.
The SIU has worked with government officials at every level, and with international organizations, to try and get mariners placed in a higher priority group than they already were, and found success in places such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Norfolk. In particular, the SIU and other labor groups in Puerto Rico were highly successful in requisitioning and distributing vaccine doses to mariners and other union employees who work and/or live in the island territory. Nearly 100 percent of the mariners who wanted a vaccine in Puerto Rico have been fully vaccinated, as reported by SIU Port Agent Amancio Crespo, who coordinated much of the effort personally.
In March, the Biden Administration instructed local governments to ensure that all Americans were eligible to receive a vaccine by May 1, though many state and local governments were already ahead of schedule.
At press time, there are three different vaccines approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect against the virus. For mariners, both the SIU and the CDC advise requesting the Janssen/ Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as it is a single-dose vaccine that does not require a second dose after three weeks. While the long-term efficacy of the vaccines is unknown, what is certain is that all of the vaccines have been thoroughly researched and approved by the CDC as safe and effective.
Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are reported to be relatively mild and short-lived, lasting up to 48 hours, and can occur after the first or second dose. Once vaccinated, it can take up to 12 days for protection to be in full effect; however, at this time, vaccinated persons must still wear face masks and follow all state and local health and safety guidelines. Physical distancing, washing hands with soap and water or the use of hand sanitizer, good respiratory hygiene, and use of a mask remain the main methods to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Abundant information about the vaccines is available on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/ Additionally, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Intertanko and the International Maritime Health Association have teamed up to publish “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination for Seafarers and Shipping Companies: A Practical Guide.” The document – available in PDF form on the SIU website – is a quick read containing lots of potentially useful and interesting information for the maritime community. It is linked in the COVID-19 SAFETY UPDATES section of the SIU website.
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