Supply chains set to swing into action as Europe approves vaccine

By Damian Brett

European pharma supply chains are set to swing into action after the European Medicines Agency approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Express giant UPS said its cold chain storage and transportation competencies are ready and on standby to assist with deliveries throughout Europe.

“With our UPS Healthcare campus and freezer farms in the Netherlands and our European air hub situated nearby in Cologne, Germany, we are moving the world forward to deliver what matters most to help Europe stamp out this pandemic,” said UPS International president Scott Price.

Sixty companies as part of Vaccines Gateway Netherlands (VGN) are working together at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to manage the transportation of the vaccines from manufacturer to end-user following approval.

The Group includes Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo and Air Cargo Netherlands members including manufacturers, Dutch airports, airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, trucking companies, and General Sales Agents.

Business services also taking part include banks, insurance companies, educational institutes, consultancies, staffing agents, and security companies.

“VGN is fully committed and feels responsible to fulfil this vital task and deliver high-end quality throughout the whole airfreight supply chain,” said Ferry van der Ent, director of business development, Schiphol Cargo.

“The Taskforce strives to be the European Gateway for the most efficient, secure, and reliable handling and transportation of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The Corona pandemic has had a tremendous effect on all of us worldwide and this will remain the case until the virus has been eradicated, which most effectively will be achieved by a successful vaccine.  

“The vaccines will be produced at a set of specific sites around the globe and it will require a large distribution network and collaboration between stakeholders in the logistics supply chain to deliver and handle as quickly as possible.  

“Not only is the large number of shipments expected for the COVID-19 vaccines a task, but we also expect to have to step up to maintain the vaccines in a good condition as required.  

“Some need to be transported at -80, others up to eight degrees Celsius.  

“We are experienced with temperature sensitive goods and are aware of the harmful impact when exposed to temperature deviations.  

“Therefore, we have successfully run through different scenarios and have created guidelines based on these in order to make sure we are prepared for every eventuality.”  

VGN has begun creating ‘fast lanes’ at Schiphol to ensure “immediate in/immediate out” handling for the vaccines and ensuring very little storage time is required at the airport.

The Taskforce has also gained the support of local authorities, with Dutch Customs becoming a member of the group and the Royal Military Police are helping with security measures and processes.

“VGN members are greatly experienced in handling temperature-controlled shipments and we will be sharing knowledge and data to make sure the vaccines safely reach their destination at the right time,” said Maarten van As, Managing Director, Air Cargo Netherlands.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa Cargo yesterday unveiled plans to launch a new service dedicated to the transport of Covid-19 vaccines.

And Kuehne+Nagel has been contracted by the German Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to handle the logistical aspects of distributing Covid-19 vaccines in the state.


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