The time is now for governments and aviation industry stakeholders around the world to start planning for the massive task of distributing a Covid-19 vaccine for if and when it becomes available. Calling for this preparedness, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also warned of potentially severe
capacity constraints in transporting vaccines by air.
“Safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning thus the time for that is now. 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,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
Air cargo currently plays a key role in the distribution of vaccines through global time- and temperature-sensitive distribution systems. However, this capability
will be put to the test during the global pandemic, which will need to be quick and efficient to transport and distribute the vaccines once they are available.
“Even if we assume that half the needed vaccines can be transported by land, the air cargo industry will still face its largest single transport challenge ever. In
planning their vaccine programs, particularly in the developing world, governments must take very careful consideration of the limited air cargo capacity that is
available at the moment. If borders remain closed, travel curtailed, fleets grounded and employees furloughed, the capacity to deliver life-saving vaccines will be
very much compromised,” said de Juniac.
“Delivering billions of doses of vaccine to the entire world efficiently will involve hugely complex logistical and programmatic obstacles all the way along
the supply chain. We look forward to working together with government, vaccine manufacturers and logistical partners to ensure an efficient global roll-out of a safe and affordable Covid-19 vaccine,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. According to international regulations, vaccines must be handled and transported at controlled temperatures and immediately to ensure the quality of the product.
IATA cautions that there are still many unknowns regarding the logistics of distributing the crucial vaccines, such as number of doses, temperature sensitivities, manufacturing locations. The association, which represents the majority of the world’s commercial airlines, said it what is clear is the vast scale of activity, the need for cold chain facilities and that delivery to every country on the planet will be needed.
IATA added that governments must also consider the current diminished cargo capacity of the global air transport industry, warning that, with the severe downturn in passenger traffic, airlines have downsized networks and put many aircraft into remote long-term storage. In fact, the WHO, Unicef and
Gavi have already reported severe difficulties in maintaining their planned vaccine programs during the Covid-19 crisis due, in part, to limited air connectivity.
“The whole world is eagerly awaiting a safe Covid-19 vaccine. It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to
the initial doses when they are available. As the lead agency for the procurement and supply of the Covid vaccine on behalf of the COVAX Facility, Unicef will be
leading what could possibly be the world’s largest and fastest operation ever. The role of airlines and international transport companies will be critical to this endeavour,” said Henrietta Fore, Unicef executive director.
Meanwhile, the potential size of a vaccine delivery is so enormous that providing just a single dose to the world’s 7.8 billion people would fill 8 000 747 cargo aircraft. While land transport will lend a hand hand. More so, in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity, it is irrefutable that vaccines cannot be delivered
globally without the significant use of air cargo. email@example.com