According to the global airline industry the “largest transport challenge ever” for the industry will be faced in shipping a coronavirus vaccine around the world.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that doing so will require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s.
While no vaccine against Covid-19 is available yet, work on a global airlift plan is already being undertaken by the IATA in coordination with airlines, airports, global health bodies and drug companies.
This airlift plan is however assuming that one dose per person will be needed.
“Safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning. And the time for that is now,” said IATA’s chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.
Shipping vaccines is far more complex compared to the delivering of cargo which has been the main business of the airlines during the severe downturn in passenger flights because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For the purpose of transferring of vaccines and other drugs, there is need for a typical temperature range of between 2 and 8C and therefore not all planes are suitable for delivering vaccines. Further, more aircraft may be excluded if some of the vaccines require to be transported in freezing temperatures.
“We know the procedures well. What we need to do is scale them up to the magnitude that will be required,” added Glyn Hughes, the industry body’s head of cargo.
He added that it will be critical to organize flights to certain parts of the world, including some areas of South East Asia, which have significantly less capabilities of producing vaccines. The IATA says that under the current conditions, it would be “impossible” to distribute a vaccine across Africa because of the lack of cargo capacity of the regions as ell s because of its size and the complexities of border crossings.
Cooling facilities across a wide network of locations where the vaccine will be stored and “almost military precision” will be needed to transport vaccines.
Currently, while around 140 vaccines candidate are in their early development stages, there are about to dozens of them that are currently undergoing clinical trials through human injection.
One of such vaccines is the one that is being developed by the University of Oxford which is already at an advanced stage of clinical trials.
Governments have been urged by the IATA to make special preparations and plan the distributions carefully so that countries are completely ready to distribute vaccines as soon s vaccines are approved and are available for distribution.
Security is another issue of distribution in addition to making sure that the vaccines are handled and transported at controlled temperatures.
“Vaccines will be highly valuable commodities. Arrangements must be in place to keep ensure that shipments remain secure from tampering and theft,” added IATA.
(Adapted from BBC.com)