Coronavirus vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )
The International Air Transport Association warned of severe capacity constraints that could hamper efforts to get a vaccine out quickly around the globe.
The world may be waiting with bated breath for a vaccine againt COVID-19, but a bigger problem would be the logistics.
Experts say shipping a coronavirus vaccine around the world will be the airline industry’s biggest ever challenge. And as much as an equivalent of 8,000 jumbo jet planes will be required to get a single dose to 7.8 billion people.
Vaccines can be shipped by land, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity, but will have to be flown to other countries.
The International Air Transport Association warned of severe capacity constraints that could hamper efforts to get a vaccine out quickly around the globe. To this end, the international aviation group is working with airlines, airports, health bodies and pharmaceutical firms to draft an airlift plan.
“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, Alexandre de Juniac, said.
IATA warned that, with the severe downturn in passenger traffic, airlines had scaled back their fleets and put many aircraft into long-term storage.
Calling it the “largest single transport challenge ever,” the air transport body called on governments to start preparing for the large-scale delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“The potential size of the delivery is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 (Boeing) 747 cargo aircraft,” IATA said Wednesday.
“Land transport will help, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use air cargo."
It added that air cargo plays “a key role in the distribution of vaccines in normal times through well-established global time- and temperature-sensitive distribution systems,” a capability that will be crucial when it comes to transporting vaccines around the world.
The group urged governments to begin planning with “industry stakeholders” to ensure full preparedness when vaccines for Covid-19 are approved and available for distribution. Several vaccines are in late-stage clinical trials currently but only Russia has approved its own vaccine for use so far.
“While there are still many unknowns (number of doses, temperature sensitivities, manufacturing locations, etc.), it is clear that the scale of activity will be vast, that cold chain facilities will be required and that delivery to every corner of the planet will be needed.”
IATA recommended the procurement, or repurposing of, buildings to ensure there were temperature-controlled facilities and equipment available, as well as making sure there are enough people trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines.
“If borders remain closed, travel curtailed, fleets grounded and employees furloughed, the capacity to deliver life-saving vaccines will be very much compromised,” IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said.