Air carriers begin transporting Covid-19 vaccines

By Rachelle Harry

Air carriers have already started transporting Covid-19 vaccines, ahead of widespread global distribution.

The news comes as pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna, according to BBC reports, claim their vaccines are more than 94% effective in fighting the virus.

The Pfizer vaccine must be kept deep frozen (at -70 degrees Celsius). Moderna’s vaccine can be stored long-term storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius, but is stable for 30 days between 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius.

Others will likely need to be distributed at a constant temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

In preparation for the “unprecedented logistical operation”, Air France-KLM Martinair Cargo said its cooperation with partners will be essential in successfully overcoming the challenge.

Adriaan den Heijer, executive vice president Air France-KLM Cargo, commented: “In recent weeks, we successfully shipped the first Covid-19 vaccines.

“Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is ready for this logistical challenge, ready to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the Netherlands, to France and to many other countries around the globe.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Cargo has transported Covid-19 manufactured in China to Brazil – a distance of around 17,000km.

The vaccines were placed in seven temperature-controlled containers in Beijing and were safely flown to Sao Paulo via Istanbul.

Turkish Cargo highlighted that it has created a global pharmaceutical corridor between more than 400 destinations, and it has carried many other types of pharmaceuticals along its corridor to key destinations including Mumbai, Brussels, Istanbul, Singapore, Dubai, Basel, London and Amsterdam.

Other preparations for the Covid-19 vaccine are underway across the air cargo industry.

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, along with Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and with Aéroport de Paris has established two task forces to prepare both airport communities (at Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle) for upcoming vaccine transport operations.

It is also expanding its pharma facilities at the two airports.

Volga-Dnepr Group set up a dedicated vaccine task force, which will be led by Casper Pan, head of healthcare Asia Pacific at the group.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo launched a new pharma service that will cater for urgent, valuable and vulnerable pharmaceutical and life sciences shipments — including Covic-19 vaccines.

The product includes a 24/7 support team, automatic live status updates, proactive service recovery and periodical integrity checks, temperature-controlled facilities and a dedicated booking team.

Swissport recently demonstrated its readiness to handle “highly temperature-sensitive air cargo” at its Brussels Pharma Center.

The demonstration involved two separate shipments being delivered to the hub, which the company says is part of an end-to-end cool chain.

One shipment arrived in a container cooled to -70°C, while the other shipment was transported at a “more conventional” 2°-8°C temperature range.

The Cool Chain Association (CCA) has launched a Covid-19 matrix to help airports prepare operations for the launch of vaccines.

The matrix looks at adherence to temperature requirements, packaging, forecast and quantity, and timeframe across different stages in a vaccine’s journey through an airport.

CCA members will fill out the matrix and then bring together the information to help the supply chain to focus on potential pinch points, training needs, safety and security, as well as supplier and risk management, and quality.

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