MCHD vaccinates cargo crews entering Port of Mobile

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Press release from the Mobile County Health Department

MOBILE, Ala. — In March of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the COVID-19 pandemic had triggered devastating consequences for not only human life but also the global economy. Maritime and air transport are two essential activities that underpin global trade and mobility and are key to a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

The Mobile County Health Department’s COVID-19 Response Team has responded to this challenge by providing the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to crews on cargo ships entering the Port of Mobile.

“The Port of Mobile is a very important economic engine in our community,” said Dr. Bernard H. Eichold II, Health Officer for Mobile County. “It provides many jobs and directly connects Alabama with international commerce. As ships go from port to port around the world, their crews need to be protected from contagious diseases.

“The Mobile County Health Department is honored to provide COVID vaccine to the workers as supplies allow. This helps protect the industry, the essential employees, assists in preventing transmission of COVID from country to country, and thus make our community and Alabama healthier for everyone.”

The WHO says that more than 80 percent of global trade by volume is moved by maritime transport. The global economy depends on the world’s 2 million seafarers who operate the global fleet of merchant ships.

Seafarers have been severely impacted by the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Back in January, it was estimated that some 400,000 seafarers were stranded onboard commercial vessels, long past the expiry of their contracts, and unable to be repatriated. A similar number of seafarers urgently needed to join ships to replace them.

The first vessel to receive the vaccine in Mobile was called the “City of Hamburg.” It is a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ship designed to carry wheeled cargo — such as cars and trucks — that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle.

The 16 members of its crew got their shots on May 17. They told the MCHD staff how thrilled they were to be vaccinated. Because of quarantine restrictions in Europe, much of the crew had not been allowed to visit their homes in more than a year.

As of today, the total number of crew members who have been vaccinated is 277. They have come from 14 different vessels. The majority of crew members are from France, India, the Philippines, Ukraine, Romania, and Russia.

The MCHD COVID-19 response team would like to thank local organizations that have assisted with this project. This includes International Ministries of the Mobile Baptist Association and Catholic Maritime Ministry; U.S. Maritime Security; and Norton Lilly International.

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