BRUSSELS - Belgium on Monday launched a program to vaccinate foreign sailors at its bustling ports against Covid-19, with officials saying medical teams would board ships to give inoculations.
Some 80,000 sailors on more than 5,500 vessels are estimated to arrive at the country's major North Sea ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent each year.
The initiative was aimed at giving "this hard-to-reach group the best chance of being vaccinated", the Belgium ministry in charge of maritime affairs said.
The ministry pointed to the risks sailors face of Covid outbreaks during long periods of time spent in confined spaces and said many of the seafarers came from countries where vaccines were not yet widely available.
The vaccines will be the single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab and on offer for free.
The United States and Germany also offer vaccinations to foreign sailors, but Belgium will become the first country to provide them aboard ship, the authorities said.
Belgium's vaccination rate has been among the highest in the European Union, and so far over 83 percent of adults in the country have had at least one dose, and 67 percent are fully vaccinated.
© Agence France-Presse