7.8 Billion People, 8000 Cargo Jets – One Vaccine Mission



  • Countries are preparing their global logistics chains to meet the requirements during the COVID vaccine distribution.
  • Air cargo industry will play a crucial role in vaccine distribution, providing well-established time and temperature-sensitive systems,for a quick and efficient transportation of vaccines.
  • The IATA cites concerns regarding availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment, along with trained staff, which needs to be looked into by the governments.
  • Several factors, including proper security, ease of border restrictions and permit for operators must be in check.
  • Land transportation to also play a crucial role in transporting vaccines locally.

As global pharmaceutical companies race to complete their Covid-19 vaccine trials, the logistics that will be required to deliver them to all corners of the world are coming into focus and it will be a mission like no other, reports CNN Travel.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), providing a single dose of the vaccine to 7.8 billion people will require the use of 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft — and planning needs to begin now.

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“Safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry,” said IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, in a statement.

“We urge governments to take the lead in facilitating cooperation across the logistics chain so that the facilities, security arrangements and border processes are ready for the mammoth and complex task ahead.”

Role of the air cargo industry

The air cargo industry has long played an important role in vaccine distribution, providing well-established time- and temperature-sensitive systems — which will be crucial to the quick and efficient transport of Covid-19 vaccines, notes IATA.

There are currently 29 vaccines being tested in multiple human trials, running simultaneously around the world.

Proper planning is required

Once a vaccine is approved for use, licensing and large-scale manufacturing takes place. But without proper planning, these vaccines won’t be able to fly the skies.

Among the major concerns cited by IATA is the availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment, along with trained staff. Robust monitoring capabilities will need to be in place too.

And then there are the current border restrictions, which will need to be eased. 

Permits for operators carrying the vaccine will need to be fast tracked, and the flight crew members exempted from quarantine requirements to ensure cargo supply chains are maintained, says IATA.

Security is another concern, with IATA noting that vaccines will be highly valuable commodities. Shipments will need to be secured and protected from tampering and theft.

Role of aviation industry 

The aviation industry has already been playing a critical role throughout the pandemic, delivering essential supplies to first responders, with the Boeing 747 in particular key to these efforts.

Cargo operators such as Silk Way Airlines, Atlas Air, Air Bridge Cargo (ABC) and Cargolux have been leading logistical efforts to support first responders and will likely continue to do so when vaccine deliveries ramp up.

“Air cargo solutions have never been more important than they are now to global health services. Currently, our international teams dispatch multiple flights daily to ensure that vital medical supplies protect those in need,” 

said Tatyana Arslanova, executive operating officer for ABC, in July.

“Its three compartments can have different temperature settings from 4 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees (39 F to 84 F), giving us extra opportunities to transport perishable cargo, such as temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals and life-saving medical equipment.”

Effect of the pandemic on the industry

In spite of the presence of established operators, IATA warned that the global air transport industry’s cargo capacity has been severely impacted by the pandemic, with airlines downsizing their networks and putting aircraft into long-term storage due to diminished demand.

IATA acknowledged that land transport will also play an important role in vaccine distribution — especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity, “but vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use of air cargo.”

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Source: CNN Travel


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