Last week, India’s shipping industry body; Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) alleged that several lakhs of Indian seafarers who are not or no longer Maharashtrian residents are denied COVID-19 vaccines by the BMC-run hospitals.
Seafarers residing all over India often visit Mumbai to complete documentation. Owing to the alleged vaccine denial issue, seafarers are encountering challenges in joining jobs overseas. This is because they have to be fully vaccinated beforehand and they are being refused.
BMC-run hospitals have been denying vaccines despite the central government permitting overseas job seekers to get the final dose of Covishield after 28 days, MASSA said.
On June 7, the central government introduced standard operating procedures (SOP), reducing the gap between the vaccine doses to 28 days, especially for some special categories of personnel. It had also mandated that the facility will be provided only at specific government-run hospitals.
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The BMC accordingly declared seven hospitals that were authorized to vaccinate only qualified applicants.
It has now been alleged that some of the BMC-nominated hospitals are refusing these seafarers for the second dose of Covishield, stating that the facility is available only for Maharashtrian residents.
Shiv Halbe, the MASSA Chief Executive Officer, said that the increase in the gap between the doses caused inconvenience to those seeking jobs overseas or who had been employed overseas. He also added that a category of overseas workers is seafarers, employed on ships that have been operating worldwide and managing the global supply chain.
Halbe said that the seafarers have homes in different parts of India and often visit Mumbai to complete mandatory documentation as several offices related to Waterways and Shipping, the Ministry of Ports, and a significant number of shipping enterprises are headquartered in Mumbai.
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