Air cargo now more prepared for Covid-19 vaccine

By Damian Brett

The latest industry survey from Tiaca and Pharma.Aero has revealed that the air cargo industry is now more prepared for Covid-19 vaccine transportation operations than it was three months ago.

The latest Sunrays project survey shows that 46% of air cargo industry stakeholders, including airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airport operators and IT solution providers, now feel well prepared for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, a “significant increase” compared with only 28% in September.

Although the improvement is seen across the whole industry, ground handlers, who were the least prepared in September, reported the strongest jump in preparedness. 

“The industry has clearly stepped up its efforts to get ready for the largest logistics effort ever seen and with 79% feeling more prepared than three months ago, we applaud the readiness progress the air cargo community has made,” said Nathan De Valck, chairman of Pharma.Aero’s board of directors and member of the Sunrays project.

“It is very encouraging to see that the majority of our industry has established working relationships with vaccine manufacturers, dedicated teams in place and collaborates with their supply chain partners to handle the logistics of Covid-19 vaccines.” 

The report also examines currently known requirements for Covid-19 vaccine logistics for the front runner manufacturers such as AstraZeneca and University of Oxford, Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, GSK and Sanofi, J&J, as well as the procurement and logistics strategies by individual countries and international bodies, like the EU and COVAX, and locations of vaccine trials and production. 

“Although the air cargo industry has scaled up its capabilities, collaboration and readiness in the past couple of months, and Covid-19 vaccines are getting approved for wide distribution, we still live in a world with a lot of unknowns. As new vaccine requirements, purchase deals and regulatory approvals are announced everyday air cargo needs to work hand-in-hand to be agile enough to deliver vaccines safely at scale,” added Emir Pineda, member of Tiaca’s board of directors. 

In order to continue to improve preparedness, vaccine manufacturers need to share information needed by all their logistics providers as early as possible to allow them to make needed investment in time; air cargo players should ensure their sub-contractors and supply chain partners receive the right level of information as early as possible; and industry needs to adopt a local air cargo community approach to strengthen collaboration at local levels.  

Meanwhile, security and cyber-security measures need to be put in place to avoid theft and counterfeit; dry ice, active containers, trained staff, and cold chain space availability should be secured early; and infrastructure investment decisions should be made as early as possible. 

Visibility also needed to be improved with stakeholders mapping out their capabilites; the use of tracking and monitoring devices and the rollout of digital solutions.

The project members also call on governments, customs authorities, and border agencies to be ready to facilitate and expedite all Covid-19-related goods and for international organisations, NGOs and donors to support cool chain capacity building efforts in least developed countries.

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