Air freight plays a key role in the distribution of vaccines in normal times. This capability will be crucial to the quick and efficient transport and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning. And the time for that is now.
IATA has published guidelines for the air freight industry regarding COVID-19 vaccine transportation. The purpose is to ensure that the air cargo industry is ready to support ship and distribution of the vaccine. In this regard, they will move them safely and securely.
Vaccines must be handled and shipped in line with international regulatory requirements, at controlled temperatures. Therefore, we can ensure the quality of the product. Also, there are still many unknowns, such as number of doses. It is clear that the scale of activity will be vast. We need cold chain facilities and delivery to every corner of the planet.
Finally, IATA warns that vaccines are very valuable goods. Therefore, it must be ensured that shipments are safe from tampering and theft. “Processes are in place already, but the huge volume of vaccine shipments will need early planning to ensure that they are scalable,” it said.
The global route network has been reduced dramatically from the pre COVID 22,000 city pairs. The governments must ensure that sufficient capacity is available to distribute the vaccine. The whole world is eagerly awaiting a safe COVID vaccine. It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to the initial doses when they are available.
The potential size of the delivery is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 bln people would fill 8,000 747 cargo aircraft. They con not deliver vaccines globally without the significant use air cargo. If half of it can be transported by land. The air freight industry will still face its largest single transport challenge ever. Therefore, governments must make careful use of their limited air cargo capacity. If borders remain closed. Or if travel curtailed. Or maybe fleets grounded and employees furloughed. As a result, the capacity to deliver life saving vaccines will be very much compromised.