As various drug companies and health experts scramble for a vaccine for coronavirus, International Air Transport Association (IATA), is planning necessary logistics, claiming that as many as 8,000 jumbo jets, similar to Boeing 747s, will be required to transport the vaccine globally.
IATA is coordinating with airports, airlines, global health bodies, and drug companies to streamline the distribution process of the Covid-19 vaccine — when there is one. The programme assumes one solitary dose per person.
IATA’s chief executive Alexandre de Junia called the delivery of the vaccine the mission of the century for the world’s air cargo industry reiterating the need for careful advance planning.
“And the time for that is now,” he told the BBC.
Following the abrupt end to global air travel, most airlines have focused on delivering cargo. However, medicines or in particular vaccines require optimum conditions and capacity to transport, such as temperatures between 2 and 8 degree Celcius. Some even require frozen conditions. All these factors exclude certain aircraft which may not be incorporated with required facilities.
Glyn Hughes, IATA’s head of cargo, said: “We know the procedures well. What we need to do is scale them up to the magnitude that will be required.”
He also pointed out a key challenge in moving the vaccine. The cold storages and other such infrastructures are not prevalent in South East Asia and African countries.
A report by logistics firm DHL and consultancy company McKinsey stated the need for 2 lakh movements by pallet shippers on 15,000 flights to transport the Covid-19 vaccine. “Large parts of Africa, South America and Asia could not be readily supplied at scale due to lack of cold chain logistics capacity suitable for life science products. Governments and NGOs would need to implement special measures to ensure vaccine distribution,’ the report said.
Africa, in particular, IATA says, is “impossible” for vaccine distribution. The vast continent, lack of cargo space and complexities involving border crossing make it difficult for vaccine logistics. Transportation will require almost military precision and nodes of locations with cold-storage facilities to preserve the vaccine.