Vaccines for Seafarers in Tacoma and Seattle


By Susan Huppert, NAMMA

International seafarers receive Coronavirus vaccine in the Northwest ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance manages most of the waterfront activities in the Seattle and Tacoma harbors. Existing among the same population, but with a different mission, are the Seattle Seafarers’ Center and the Tacoma Seafarers’ Center which are concerned with the wellbeing of the international seafarers who man the ships.

The business side of the ports has taken note of the human factor: the seafarers. Executive Director of the Seattle Seafarers’ Center, Rev. Cristi Chapman, and Paul Peterson, director at the Tacoma Seafarers’ Center are jointly benefiting from a unified effort to ensure seafarers have access to a vaccine against the Coronavirus.

Through the Northwest Seaport Alliance agency, Lou Paulsen, Director of Strategic Operations and Risk Management, Port of Tacoma, manages the assets of the two ports. Paulsen oversees the activities of the waterfront enabling skilled and coordinated operations of the two ports.

He noted the missing opportunity of providing COVID-19 vaccine to visiting mariners.

“Seafarers play a unique role,” said Paulsen.

His observation began the search for individuals with the existing infrastructure natural to the care of seafarers. The seafarers’ centers were that. A virtual meeting connecting the two seafarer center directors and Discovery Health, a provider specific to the maritime industry. The pair of enthusiastic directors partnered with a willing provider, launching the effort.   

“It is a tremendous social justice opportunity to those who have difficulty to access the vaccine,” said Paulsen. “It has been marvelous to see.”

Thanks to efforts to coordinate seafarers’ needs with the services of Discovery Health, the first crew received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on May 11. At least 20 international seafarers have been vaccinated in Seattle. Three upcoming vaccination dates for seafarers are scheduled for the Seattle port. 

Six vessels in Tacoma have received the vaccine, with two additional planned for next week.  Discovery Health is willing to visit ships at anchorage and climb gangways to administer vaccines. The word is spreading.

Discovery Clinic is amazing to work with,” said Chapman.  

Locating people within a port community who can creatively find access to vaccines for seafarers is a key. Highlighting the seafarers’ role within the global economy and their needs helps those in the maritime community connect them with resources already established.

“The crew members of vessels that come to our gateway are now able to receive these services. We are elated to see it all come together,” said Paulsen.   

The Seafarers Center is working to get the word out. Chapman is thankful for the NAMMA website which she can refer ship captains and seafarers to for accurate data. In addition, the Seattle Marine Exchange provides a summary for shipping agents. Posting on Facebook and word of mouth are common among seafarers.  

“Every crew is talking about it. The dam has broken,” said Chapman.

Chapman is concerned for three additional ports in Washington, north of Seattle as they are outside of the three-county range of Discovery Health. But the story is not over on that yet.

“We are working hard looking for options,” she said.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but we have been able to pivot,” said the relatively new director of the Seattle center.

She encourages others that gaining access for their seafarers will disrupt their routine, but in a “really good way.”

When vaccinated, many seafarers will have ease going home and when signing new contracts.

“Families are quite relieved,” said Chapman. “It’s going to get better.” 

Photo: Facebook – Mission to Seafarers-Seattle


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals