Mass COVID-19 vaccination for fishers at Tema Harbour

BY: Della Russel Ocloo

The Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA) has commenced an inoculation exercise against COVID-19 for fishermen and fish traders operating at the Tema Fishing Harbour.

The exercise is seeking to vaccinate some 2,000 sailors and other groupings operating within the fishing supply chain at the harbour.

The association said it formed part of efforts to reduce infections within the fishing community at the harbour.

GITA’s initiative is being carried out in collaborate with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

The acting President of GITA, Mr Peter Stephen Adjokatcher, told the Daily Graphic last Monday that the exercise had become necessary in the group’s quest to protect public health and safety.

He said the risk associated with fishing meant that seafarers could become easy transmitters of Covid-19 to their families and the wider population as a result of the human-to-human interactions associated with the business, from the general production to the distribution chain.

Safety protocols

Mr Adjokatcher pointed out that the nature of the work of the various players ranging from harvesting, packaging, distribution, among others, often involved a lot of interactions, making the enforcement of safety protocols a burdensome task.

“Our industry saw devastation in 2020 in the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the partial closure of hotels and restaurants, while households also embraced non-perishable foods. As we make a gradual recovery, it has become much more important to undertake the vaccination exercise in order to support job protection and more importantly public health,” he said.

“Bringing the vaccines to the doorstep of the fishermen is our strategy to get all of them vaccinated within a certain time-frame since we do not want our men to just go to sea without any consideration for their welfare,” he added.

Impact

The Administrative Manager of GITA, Mr Gilbert Sam, said some seafarers had been infected with the virus in the past, and that such situations caused an easy spread within their working environment.

He said GITA had put in place a stringent regime on the enforcement of safety protocols, as wells as taking frequent tests and isolation of infected persons.

He commended the National Fisheries Association of Ghana (NAFAG), the Ghana Tuna Association (GTA), and Ghana Inshore Fishermen Association (GIFA) and sister associations for embracing the exercise.

Mr Sam expressed the hope that the acceptance of the vaccine by the larger fishing community would encourage persons who had been hesitant to the idea of vaccination to fully embrace the programme to reduce the risk of infection within the larger population.

Some beneficiaries who spoke to the Daily Graphic after being vaccinated pointed out that the initial misconception about the vaccines made them stay away from the general exercise.

“The sensitisation exercise about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines done by GITA and the relevant associations made me change my mind to be part of the exercise,” Mr Kwesi Quansah, who works as a deckhand (a crew member in charge of cleaning duties) on a fishing trawler, said.