IATA warns: "It is time to prepare for the transport of the COVID-19 vaccine."

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The COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives, blocked the planet, destroyed industries such as HoReCa, aviation and tourism, blocked us in homes and we ended up wearing masks to prevent the rapid spread of the virus.

To combat the pandemic, hundreds of laboratories and thousands of companies are contributing to the search for the miracle antidote. In the latest data update, released on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists 35 candidate vaccines currently being evaluated in clinical trials in human subjects worldwide. 9 of them are already in the final stage or are about to enter this stage.

It is time to prepare for the transport of the COVID-19 vaccine

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to plan with the utmost responsibility all the logistics needed to transport COVID-19 vaccines safely and on time, when they are approved and available for distribution.

Facilities:  Vaccines must be handled and transported in accordance with international regulatory requirements, at controlled temperatures and without delay to ensure product quality. Although there are still many unknowns (number of doses, temperature sensitivities, manufacturing locations, etc.), it is clear that the scale of the activity will be vast.

Priorities for preparing this distribution include:

  • Availability of temperature controlled installations and equipment;
  • Availability of staff trained to handle time and temperature sensitive vaccines.

Preparations at the border

At the border:  Effective cooperation with health and customs authorities will therefore be essential to ensure: timely approvals, appropriate security measures, proper handling and customs clearance. 

Priorities for border processes include:

  • Introduction of fast flight procedures and landing permits for aircraft carrying the COVID-19 vaccine;
  • Exemption of flight crew members from quarantine requirements to ensure the maintenance of supply chains;
  • Support for temporary traffic rights for operations carrying COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Prioritize the arrival of those vital shipments to prevent possible temperature anomalies due to delays;
  • Reduction of tariffs to facilitate the movement of the vaccine.

Transport capacity

As was the case during the pandemic, the global cargo fleet will play an important role in transporting vaccines worldwide.

The efficient distribution of billions of vaccine doses worldwide will involve extremely complex logistical and programmatic barriers within the supply chain. Governments need to work with manufacturers and logistics partners to effectively implement COVID-19 vaccines globally.

In addition to the necessary transport preparations and coordination, governments must also take into account the current carrying capacity of the global airline industry. IATA warned that with the severe drop in passenger traffic, airlines had reduced the number of flights and landed thousands of planes.

The global route network has been dramatically reduced from the 24.000 pairs of pre-COVID cities. WHO, UNICEF and Gavi have already reported severe difficulties in maintaining their planned vaccination programs during the COVID-19 crisis due to limited air connectivity.

Providing a single dose for 7,8 billion people alone would require 8000 Boeing 747 cargo flights. Land transport will help, especially in developed areas with a local production connection. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use of the cargo fleet.

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