For sustenance of the logistic chain in Nigeria, the Federal Government must prioritise access to COVID-19 vaccination for Nigerian seafarers and dockworkers.
Spokesman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Dr Bolaji Akinola, who made the call in a statement in Lagos over the weekend, said seafarers and port workers have been designated as essential workers by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
He said, “Seafarers and dockworkers are underrecognised, underpublicised and unsung economic heroes despite their significant contribution to keeping our nation afloat during the economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is therefore imperative to ensure continuity of the maritime workforce through the continuous provision of protective health supplies, rapid testing supplies and priority access to vaccination.
“Ensuring priority access to COVID-19 vaccines to these critical maritime workers is vital to keeping the supply chain active. If our seafarers and port workers are unprotected, the supply chain will become vulnerable,” Dr Akinola said.
The STOAN Spokesman also said that contrary to insinuations in certain quarters, Nigeria has abundant logistics capacity to transport and store the COVID-19 vaccines at the required temperature.
“We have abundant refrigerated containers, also called reefer containers, for the transportation and temporary storage of temperature-sensitive cargo including vaccines.
“These refrigerated containers are capable of controlling temperature ranging from -65 °C up to 40 °C. Reefer containers allow the transportation of cargo in a way that preserves its freshness and efficacy all year round,” he added.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 16 million AstraZeneca doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of the 88 million allocated to Africa will soon arrive Nigeria.
WHO said it is supporting all countries to access vaccines as quickly as possible.