Seafarers Sailing in Europe Gets Free COVID-19 Vaccine

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Health | 0 comments

Recognizing the importance of seafarers in keeping the global economy running, some European ports are now offering free COVID-19 vaccines to seafarers.

The first COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union started in Belgium last June 1. Around 2,200 seamen got their jabs in the Port of Antwerp for that month. Antwerp is one of the biggest and busiest ports in Europe.

There are a growing number of European ports that are joining the trend in seafarer vaccination. In the Netherlands, they started vaccinating shipboard personnel working on Dutch-registered vessels regardless of nationality.

Soon, they will jab every seafarer visiting their ports.

The same movement was seen in Bordeaux, France where a friend of mine will be inoculated with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine.

4 Brands Only

According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), only four vaccines are given a go signal to be used in the European Union. These are the following:

  • Pfizer/ BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Oxford/ Astra Zeneca and
  • Johnson & Johnson

The European Commission is securing 4.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens. Some of them may be given to seafarers.

Currently, most European ports allow free movement of seafarers regardless of nationality even without vaccination. I remember joining my vessel without vaccines in Rijeka, Croatia which was actually very smooth.

However, non-key workers like travelers who enter for a vacation will not be accepted if they do not have those vaccines

Vaccines for Seafarers

Due to the nature of our work, many ports in Europe use the J&J vaccine for seafarers docking their ports. Johnson and Johnson is only given once and no second dose is needed unlike the other three.

This is perfect for seafarers since we have a very short port stay. Additionally, we do not know when and where we will be in the coming days or weeks.

However, there could be a side effect for the J&J vaccine as the recipient experienced fever during the first 6 days.

Other brands are also used in some cases.

To get the inoculation, the seafarer only needs to sign a vaccination consent.

Shipping companies are also encouraging their crew to get the inoculation as a protection against the virus.

A letter from shipowners encouraging vessel crew to get the free COVID-19 vaccine.
Shipowners encouraging vessel crew to get the free COVID-19 vaccine

Is the vaccine FREE and Mandatory?

Today, the vaccine is given for free even in Europe and in most parts of the world. The government is doing its best to fight this pandemic so we can go back to normal.

I think it’s fair that we do our part by getting vaccinated.

However, getting the inoculation is not mandatory and you won’t be mistreated or discriminated against.

Yet, it’s all the protection we need for this pandemic. Once at sea, we have no access to proper medical facilities and the nearest port could be days away.

We are the frontliners of the world’s seven oceans and we need this protection as much as everyone else.

A Growing Trend

Outside Europe, some ports in the United States are beefing up seafarer vaccination. Major cruise ship destinations are gearing up their vaccination program. This is in preparation to restart the cruise industry.

On the other side of the world, Australia also started vaccinating seafarers. However, only a select number of seafarers are receiving the jabs namely on gas carriers.

Priority List

Seafarers are the unsung heroes of the seas. In the Philippines, seafarers are on the priority list for the COVID-19 jabs.

Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine is preferred especially if you are sailing in Europe. However, other vaccine types are also available.

You only need to register in your local government unit (LGU) and wait for your schedule to get the inoculation.

Did you receive your vaccine already?

Stay healthy and may the winds be in your favor.



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