The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has managed to launch a vaccination programme for seafarers in India — a rare feat achieved by a non-governmental organisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Few organisations have been able to obtain vaccines from pharmaceutical companies in recent months, outside national governments and supranational institutions.
Earlier this year, the International Chamber of Shipping was looking to buy up to one million vaccine jabs via the Covax programme, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO). But it failed to make inroads.
Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s director of regions (India), said his organisation pulled off the trick by working with the private hospitals that procured vaccines directly from local manufacturers in India.
“It is our duty to keep exploring possibilities in ways we can try to assist our seafarers and their families undergoing tremendous hardships due to the Covid-19 situation in the country, which is unimaginable,” he said.
India suffered from a second wave of coronavirus infections earlier in the second quarter, with the daily tally of new patients exceeding 300,000 for several weeks.
The country’s seafarers have reported being unable to join vessels as they could not get vaccinated. This has led to a worsening crew crisis around the globe.
ISWAN’s South Asia branch will offer inoculation in collaboration with Narayana Health and the Medica Group of Hospitals, which has dozens of facilities across India.
They will be able to offer the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India, which has been approved for emergency use by the WHO.
“In India, Serum Institute of India is manufacturing Covishield [vaccines] and these hospitals have directly purchased from them,” Bahri said.
“It is estimated that 5,000 seafarers and families can be vaccinated by this programme.”
The vaccination effort is sponsored by a grant from the Seafarers International Relief Fund, coordinated by The Seafarers' Charity and supported by The Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, Sailors’ Society and other charities.
Those interested in vaccination will pay at least INR 630 ($8.63) per dose. Two doses are necessary, based on healthy authorities’ guidelines.
Any companies wishing to organise vaccination for a large number of employees may directly contact Bahri at email@example.com.