Migrant fishermen working on boats in the north-east will be able to get Covid-19 vaccines from next week.
The majority of the men come from the Philippines, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and spend up to a year at a time working in Scottish waters catching fish.
There are some 300 such migrant fishermen currently at work on boats across the north-east, with a large number of them based in Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
While their Scottish counterparts have been receiving their jabs since the rollout began, it was feared these migrant workers could slip through the net.
The Fishermen’s Mission charity is now working alongside NHS Grampian to ensure the workers are given the opportunity to get vaccinated on suitable dates in Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
‘They are just as much at risk as Scottish crew’
Kenny Brandie, Peterhead mission area officer for the charity Fisherman’s Mission and his colleagues Miriam Kemp and Sandy Garvock, set about finding a way for migrant crew to be added to the vaccination list.
“Lots of these guys are from the Philippines and Ghana and such, and they come over here to make a living,” said Kenny.
“They work really hard to send money back home to their families, but while UK citizens are all being called up to get our vaccines, what about these migrant fisherman?
“I don’t know how far along vaccine roll-outs are in their home nations but there is also a chance that by the time they get to go back home, they will miss getting the jab there too.
“As an organisation, we really wanted to find a way for these guys to be vaccinated while they are here.”
Fisherman’s Mission is a maritime charity which provides 24/7 support to active and retired fishermen and their families, with bases dotted all over the UK.
‘This is a worldwide issue’
Kenny with his local Fisherman’s Mission colleagues Sandy Garvock and Miriam Kemp with Ghanaian crew members from the Fruitfull Bough in Peterhead Harbour.As a former fisherman himself, 42-year-old Kenny is passionate about the safety and rights of all crew sailing day and night on Scottish waters.
“It’s important that migrant workers are vaccinated to keep everybody safe really,” Kenny said.
“This is a worldwide issue and it’s going to take a worldwide effort to get things back to normal.
“It’s important for us to do our part in any small way we can.”
Vaccinations to be available for migrant fishermen
Teaming up with SeaFit, a long-term programme designed to improve the physical and mental health and of fishermen throughout the UK, the efforts of Fisherman’s Mission have paid off.
From May 19 all migrant fisherman in the north-east will be offered the Covid-19 vaccine.
To access the jabs, skippers of vessels with migrant crew members are being asked to contact the Fishermen’s Mission who are liaising with NHS Grampian to arrange the finer details.
Vaccinations will be available in Peterhead at the Palace Hotel, in Fraserburgh at the new leisure centre and at the Macduff Community and Sports Centre.
They will be available every Wednesday and Thursday from May 19 until early June, with dates in late June and July for the second dose.
“Now we just need to make sure that skippers of fishing vessels are aware of the situation and so not miss the window of opportunity for their crews to be vaccinated,” said Kenny.
“This is so important and we are very pleased to be able to offer the migrant workers their jabs so quickly.”