The COVID-19 pandemic is on the decline in the United States, as vaccines become more widely available and restrictions on businesses have relaxed somewhat. However, the COVID-19 virus has taken a serious toll on the country, and the effects aren’t done.
As of press time, the pandemic had killed 578,500 in the U.S., and infected 32.5 million Americans. Since the beginning of May, the rolling weekly average of new reported cases has dropped to fewer than 50,000, and 260 million vaccine doses have been administered.
In addition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated, with 58 percent having received at least one dose of a multipledosage vaccine. The percentage of fully vaccinated people over 65 in America is up to 71 percent.
Houston Hosts Event
Dozens of Seafarers were vaccinated May 3 at the hiring hall in Houston, where the union teamed up with a local health care provider (United Memorial Medical Center) and with Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia to offer the shots.
Health care professionals administered the Pfizer vaccine; a follow-up vaccination event for second doses was scheduled for May 24, also at the hall.
Garcia kicked off the May 3 gathering by thanking the union for hosting it. He also emphasized the need to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
“For those of you who are taking the vaccine, thank you for the confidence in taking it,” he said after being introduced by SIU Vice President Gulf Coast Dean Corgey. “What I need you to do now is to be an ambassador. Let people know that you’ve taken it. Let people know that they should take it as well. That’s how we’re going to save lives.”
Garcia also thanked the SIU “for all you do. You keep our economy moving, you keep products on the shelves and you keep people employed.”
ICS Answers Common Questions
Recently, the International Chamber of Shipping – the global trade association for shipowners and operators – released a practical guide to COVID-19 vaccinations as they relate to the maritime industry. They included a Q&A, which answered common questions on vaccine safety, efficacy and side effects.
To summarize, the vaccines have been carefully reviewed and studied, and determined to be safe and effective by the appropriate national and international health authorities. All CDC-approved vaccines have been proven to both protect against contracting the virus, and limit the severity of the symptoms if contracted. The vaccines start providing protection against the virus, on average, 12 days after the injection. Side effects are generally mild to moderate, and can last up to 48 hours. These can include fever, fatigue and pain at the injection site.
As of press time, even if a mariner has been vaccinated for longer than two weeks, the current U.S. Coast Guard requirements state that all mariners must wear masks and take social distancing precautions while aboard a vessel. There are exceptions, including while eating or drinking or in one’s own stateroom. Masks also may be removed if they’ll interfere with a particular task.
Shipping Companies Weigh In
As a whole, the American maritime community has been staying on top of the issue of COVID-19 vaccine availability and distribution to mariners. Working closely with the union, the SIU’s contracted operators have taken many steps to ensure both the safety of the mariners working aboard their vessels, as well as the availability of vaccines. While mariners are still advised to seek out the Johnson & Johnson brand, single-dose vaccine, any of the CDC-approved vaccines are safe and effective.
Mariners are encouraged to schedule their single-dose vaccine appointments a few days before they are shipping out, to avoid having to work through the common side effects that can occur the day after being vaccinated against COVID-19. It is also advisable to schedule all of a mariner’s required vaccinations while that mariner is ashore, to allow for two weeks between the COVID-19 vaccine and any other required shots.