Frankfurt Airport prepares to transport COVID-19 vaccine

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Nov 28, 2020, 11:12 AM(IST)

Stranded passenger get information at a check-in desk of German airline Lufthansa during a strike of security personnel over higher wages at Germany's largest airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Photograph:( Reuters )

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The main area needed in this process is the 'Cargo Cool Center' which is a vast temperature-controlled hangar and can handle nearly 120,000 tons of vaccines

As the world is awaiting COVID-19 vaccine, Frankfurt Airport officials are gearing up to handle the process of transporting millions of the vaccine that will be available worldwide from different locations.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest airports when it comes to transporting pharmaceutical goods and will be playing an important role in transporting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The stress is increasing now that we're entering the 'hot' phase," expressed Lufthansa Cargo's director of operations, Karin Krestan.

Officials have also claimed they been preparing themselves for this since August. "The processes have been established, we're very confident and we feel well prepared," said Max Philipp Conrady, head of the freight infrastructure.

Officials have been working extra hours since the beginning of the pandemic, to make sure all medicines are delivered on time, including surgical gowns, masks and making sure the port is ready for any emergency.

The main area needed in this process is the 'Cargo Cool Center' which is a vast temperature-controlled hangar and can handle nearly 120,000 tons of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products. 

It has 12,000 square metres (129,000 square feet) of temperature-controlled warehouses, essential for storing medicines, and about 8,000 square metres (86,000 square feet), around the size of a football field, handles Lufthansa cargo alone, Krestan said.

The airport has, now, invested in high-tech refrigerated "dollies" that will help transport vaccines from cold storages to the planes as the Pfizer vaccine should remain at around -70 degrees C (-94 F) — in contrast to other vaccines such as AstraZeneca and Oxford which can be shipped in normal refrigerators.

These will specifically be useful as the EU has decided to buy nearly 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, putting pressure on the cargo hub. The officials believe that while the airport will be able to handle the doses being ordered, the flight capacity will play a major factor in the distribution of the vaccines.

Cargo planes can normally carry up to a million doses unless sub-zero temperatures must be maintained. Adding to the challenge, 40 per cent of annual global air cargo is typically carried by passenger aircraft, which have been vastly curtailed due to the pandemic. Frankfurt is in talks with manufacturers to see how can the traffic be optimised efficiently.

(With inputs from AFP)

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