The International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a statement has urged governments to begin careful planning with industry stakeholders to ensure full preparedness when vaccines for COVID-19 are approved and available for distribution.
The association also warned of potentially severe capacity constraints in transporting vaccines by air. Air cargo plays a key role in the distribution of vaccines in normal times through well-established global time- and temperature-sensitive distribution systems.
This capability will be crucial to the quick and efficient transport and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines when they are available, and it will not happen without careful planning, led by governments and supported by industry stakeholders.
“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. We urge governments to take the lead in facilitating cooperation across the logistics chain so that the facilities, security arrangements and border processes are ready for the mammoth and complex task ahead,”IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
“Even if we assume that half the needed vaccines can be transported by land, the air cargo industry will still face its largest single transport challenge ever. In planning their vaccine programs, particularly in the developing world, governments must take very careful consideration of the limited air cargo capacity that is available at the moment. If borders remain closed, travel curtailed, fleets grounded and employees furloughed, the capacity to deliver life-saving vaccines will be very much compromised,” said de Juniac.
The association also said that “robust surveillance capabilities” will be needed to ensure that vaccine integrity is maintained and that arrangements should be in place to ensure that “shipments remain secure from tampering and flight”.
There are currently 29 vaccines being tested in multiple human trials, running simultaneously around the world.
CBC reported that Canada’s federal government has signed agreements with two U.S. drug companies to secure up to 114 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines under development.
Maryland-based biotechnology company Novavax announced in a press release that it has struck a deal to produce 76 million doses of a vaccine it is working on for the Canadian government, should the vaccine ever get Health Canada approval.
CBC further reported that Ottawa announced it has signed a separate deal with a subsidiary of New Jersey-based drug conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to secure up to 38 million doses of the company’s potential vaccine, which is completely different from Novavax’s.
According to IATA, the potential size of the delivery is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 cargo aircraft. Land transport will help, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use air cargo.
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