U.S. contract-civilian mariners part of defense sealift COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan now under development

The following letter dated January 28 was sent by U.S. Transportation Command Deputy Commander Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne to James Patti, chairman of USA Maritime, a coalition of which American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service are members.

Thank you for your recent letter requesting Maritime Administration and United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) support in prioritizing merchant mariners to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The merchant mariners who support the domestic and U.S.-flag international shipping industry are vital to our national security and provide the necessary capacity to move forces, supplies, and equipment when needed. The Military Sealift Command (MSC), the Department of the Navy, and overseas commanders have been working closely together to develop a vaccine distribution plan for civil service and contracted mariners working Department of Defense (DOD) missions. In addition, MSC has been working directly with military treatment facilities to accelerate vaccinations in the Pacific theater, as we are well aware of the challenges in mission accomplishment when a merchant mariner has to undergo restrictions on movement, quarantine, or medical treatment due to the COVID pandemic. While MSC's vaccination efforts are in a nascent phase, I will continue to fully support and monitor their efforts.

Changes to the COVID vaccine distribution and administration are also expected as a result of the new National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. DOD's role within this new strategy is forthcoming, and USTRANSCOM will continue to be engaged, as required, in the whole of Government implementation of the policy. We will ensure MSC's actions concerning merchant mariners are nested within the overall plan.

Thank you and the rest of the maritime community for your continued support to our nation's seafaring needs.