The heads of five UN organizations have called for maritime and air transport workers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, given their key role in supporting global trade and mobility, which is essential for a sustainable socio-economic recovery.
Maritime and air transport rely on seafarers and aircrew. They 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 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 Labour 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 programmes, 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 says.
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.