US nurse administers vaccine to foreign merchant seamen at US port
A new phase of administering the coronavirus vaccine opened last week in the United States, where nurses began vaccinating foreign merchant seamen whose ships were moored in a US port.
Some sailors, most of whom have not been able to leave their ships since the start of the pandemic, have spent up to 20 months at sea, without being able to set foot on dry land anywhere in the world.
Sailors tasked with transporting 90 percent of the world’s consumer goods have basically stranded at sea without resorting to breaks in ports because they could not be vaccinated.
The International Maritime Organization, a group that represents merchant seamen around the world, has called the situation an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.
Authorized only to unload and embark cargoes, they were nevertheless quarantined on board their ships for the duration of the pandemic. That is, until a new campaign launched by a nurse in Maine is undertaken last week which could change this difficult and unprecedented situation.
The enterprising nurse from Maine mobilized against this humanitarian crisis by creating a vaccination program for foreign seafarers, allowing them to finally feel a little more secure. They also hope this means that eventually they will be able to effectively set foot ashore in the ports they visit, in accordance with local rules and regulations.
Annie Dundon, a nurse who was once a student at the Maine Merchant Marine Academy in Castine, and who lives near Mount Desert Island, has taken the situation by the horns, instituting a program whereby these sailors can finally receive the precious vaccines that some Mainers continue to refuse.
Although Maine has seen a stellate vaccine rollout, with more than 70% of its citizens having received at least a first dose, some lingering hesitation over vaccines meant the state had a vaccine surplus between them. hands.
Dundon would have wanted none of this as sailors aboard ships all along the Maine coast had been held aboard their ships for months – and now more than a year – at a time.
So far, Dundon and her husband and initiative partner Captain Skip Strong have vaccinated a total of 65 sailors from countries such as Russia, the Philippines and Thailand, among others.
Strong, who is a pilot at Penobscot Bay port, was aware of the plight of the sailors and knew something had to be done, because even after the men returned home, the vaccines might not be available to them for months.
“It’s been tough on them,” Strong said last week in an interview with the Bangor Daily News.
“Stop and think about living on a steel box 400 to 1,000 feet long with about 20 other guys, and that’s it. It’s your world. We want to do all we can for them.
The program was made possible because the state of Maine removed its residency requirement for anyone who wished to be vaccinated. Strong thought this was the perfect opportunity to help these sailors – some of whom come from countries with very limited vaccine stocks – to get fully immunized.
“We’re so lucky here in this country, and most people just don’t get it,” Strong said. His first step was to ask whether or not there would be a way to bring a mobile vaccination unit to the port of Searsport, which serves many tankers around the world.
Warned that this was not going to happen, despite the fact that such vans have been used throughout Maine and other states, Strong refused to take no for an answer. He then turned to his wife, who worked as a nurse in nearby Southwest Harbor for 20 years. Prior to that, however, she had worked on tankers herself as part of the state’s long maritime tradition.
It also turned out to be the perfect combination of factors, which ultimately benefited the many sailors who call at ports in Maine.
“You’re stuck there for months,” Dundon explains. “For a lot of foreign crews, they have an eight or nine month contract. They have children they have never seen. It is heartbreaking. Anything we can do to make life easier …
“These crews come from places where it may take a year or more before they have a chance (to get vaccinated).”
Dundon contacted his employer, Mount Desert Island Hospital, to help him with this unprecedented situation. Officials decided they could easily spare some of the precious vaccine to help the hapless sailors, by donating 70 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the fledgling program.
Employees at the hospital pharmacy even ensured that all voluminous information materials regarding the vaccine were provided to seafarers in their native language.
“The hospital has been great,” Dundon told the New, “And the pharmacy team have been fabulous.”
Last week, several ships called at Searsport harbor, making the situation particularly fortuitous, allowing Dundon to inoculate 65 sailors from different ships at once. Merchant seamen aboard ships carrying wind turbine sails, petroleum coke and slag suddenly found themselves with the option of being fully vaccinated while their ships were docked.
Captain Strong was in charge of all the voluminous documents required for the program while Dundas administered the shots to the lucky sailors. Dundon explained, “It happened really quickly once we got the ball rolling. “
While not all sailors were keen to receive the vaccine, the majority were more than happy to line up and show their arms for the occasion.
“They are so happy, so excited. It could really make a difference for them, when they come home and feel like they haven’t brought anything back to their family. And maybe in some ports they will be able to disembark.
The vaccination campaign was entirely a voluntary effort for the couple, who dedicated 24 hours of their time last week to the sailor vaccination program.
She admits to interviewers that she was a little tired after all the extra work, on top of her normal shift in the hospital. But it was worth it, she argues.
“Covid has been a very difficult year for everyone,” she said. “Even though it’s a lot of work on top of my usual job, I feel really good.
“It lightened my load. We are making a difference, and it feels good.