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Seafarers now under top 4 PH vaccine recipients

  • Filipino seafarers reclassified under top 4 vaccination priority groups category A4 from B3 or B5 in government’s COVID-19 vaccination program
  • 730,651 Filipino seafarers are for consideration in the A4 category
  • Top priority will be given to active seafarers or those in service within the last three years; new seafarers or those with last recorded service beyond 2018 ranked second

Filipino seafarers have been moved up in the priority list of recipients in the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program in recognition of their vital role amid the pandemic.

From under B3 (Other essential workers) or B5 (Overseas Filipino Workers) in the Vaccination Priority Framework, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) to reclassify Filipino seafarers to A4 (Frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during enhanced community quarantine).

This moves up seafarers to the top 4 priority groups for vaccination, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement. The IAWG was tasked to firm up DOTr’s proposal on the priority vaccination of Filipino seafarers due to their role in the present global crisis.

There are 730,651 Filipino seafarers for consideration under the A4 category.

Based on Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) data, there are around 549,000 active seafarers registered, with 497,000 deployed overseas and 51,000 serving locally. A total of 181,000 seafarers are without updated sea service within the last three years.

With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the IATF has adopted early this year the prioritization framework and criteria of the national immunization rollout to allocate the first tranches of vaccines, given its limited global supply.

“This is a very good development for our maritime industry champions— our seafarers. Now, our Filipino seafarers will be given priority to be vaccinated,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

DOTr officer-in-charge assistant secretary for maritime Narciso Vingson, Jr., who also chairs the IAWG, said the working group is “in the unified position to push for the prioritization of Filipino seafarers in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program to secure their employment, and to ensure the safe shipping operations of essential goods amid the pandemic.”

Aside from DOTr, the IAWG is composed of officials from MARINA, Department of Labor and Employment, POEA, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Bureau of Quarantine, Department of Foreign Affairs-Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office, Association of Licensed Manning Agencies, Joint Manning Group, Filipino Association for Mariner’s Employment, and Philippine Association of Manning Agencies and Ship Managers.

The prioritization of seafarers in vaccination is based on the following grounds: Filipino seafarers are declared key workers globally and locally; Filipino seafarers are considered mobile, who, as part of their jobs, frequently enter various ports across the world; and shipping companies prefer their workforce to be vaccinated to ensure operations will remain smooth, unhampered, and somehow immune to the severe effects of COVID-19.

To further determine the specific population to be prioritized, the IAWG classified seafarers into two: top priority will be given to active seafarers or those with recorded sea service within the last three years, while new seafarers or those with last recorded sea service beyond 2018 will be ranked second.

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