Countries should prepare for Covid-19 vaccine air transport

CAPE TOWN- As the world eagerly awaits a safe and approved Covid-19 vaccine, the role of airlines and international transport companies will be critical to the quick and efficient transport and distribution of a vaccine.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to begin cautions when planning with industry stakeholders to ensure full preparedness when vaccines for Covid-19 are approved and available for distribution.

Air cargo will play a key role in the distribution of a vaccine, however, the association has also warned of potentially severe capacity constraints in transporting vaccines by air.

IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said that safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry, however, careful planning is required for the distribution.

“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,” he said.

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There are a number of logistical requirements to be met for the safe and efficient distribution of a vaccine, including temperature sensitivities, cold chain facilities and international regulatory requirements.

Here are some of the priorities needed for preparing facilities for distribution:

  • Availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment – maximizing the use or re-purposing of existing infrastructure and minimizing temporary builds.
  • Availability of staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines.
  • Robust monitoring capabilities to ensure the integrity of the vaccines is maintained.
  • Security- vaccines will be highly valuable commodities.

CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr Seth Berkley, said “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 Berkley.

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