Shipping industry body MASSA on Tuesday alleged that lakhs of Indian seafarers who are not residents of Maharashtra are being denied COVID-19 vaccines by BMC-run hospitals. Seafarers reside in various parts of the country and often visit Mumbai to complete certain mandatory documentations. Due to the alleged denial of vaccines, the seafarers are facing challenges in getting jobs overseas as they need to be fully vaccinated before they left the Indian shores for employment abroad.
The denial by the BMC-run hospitals is despite the central government allowing overseas job seekers to take their second dose of Covishield vaccine after a span of 28 day, the Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) said. “The Government of India permits overseas job seekers to take their second dose of Covishield vaccine after a span of 28 days. Why are BMC hospitals presently denying Indian seafarers (who are going overseas for jobs) the second dose of Covishield stating that they are not from Maharashtra," MASSA said in a tweet.
The central government issued standard operating procedures (SOP) on June 7, reducing the gap between doses to 28 days for certain categories of personnel, and mandated that this facility be provided at designated government-run hospitals. Accordingly, the BMC declared seven hospitals within their precinct that were authorised to vaccinate qualified applicants, the Association said.
It also alleged that some of the BMC-nominated hospitals are turning the seafarers away when they approach facilities for the second dose of Covishield with appropriate documents, stating that the facility is available only for residents of Maharashtra. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare gradually increased the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine from four weeks to the current 12-16 weeks.
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MASSA Chief Executive Officer Shiv Halbe said, “This increase (in gap) put to inconvenience a number of persons who were seeking a job overseas or were employed overseas, as they needed to be ‘fully vaccinated’ before they left our shores for employment overseas." He added that one such category of overseas workers is seafarers, who are employed on ships which are operating worldwide and thus keep the global supply chain intact. “The seafarers reside in different parts of the country and often visit Mumbai to complete certain mandatory documentation as many of the offices related to the Ministry of Ports, Waterways and Shipping, as well as a large number of shipping companies are located in Mumbai," Halbe said.