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Air re-connectivity to quicken Covid vaccine distribution

November 17, 2020

In its “Guidance” released to ensure that the air cargo industry is ready to support the large-scale handling, transport and distribution of the vaccine, the global body of airlines said governments and the logistics supply chain have to take strict measures for what will be the largest and most complex global logistics operation ever undertaken.

“Delivering billions of doses of a vaccine that must be transported and stored in a deep-frozen state to the entire world efficiently will involve hugely complex logistical challenges across the supply chain,” Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said.

“While the immediate challenge is the implementation of Covid-19 testing measures to re-open borders without quarantine, we must be prepared for when a vaccine is ready. This guidance material is an important part of those preparations,” he said.

Key challenges addressed in the guidance include the availability of temperature-controlled storage facilities and contingencies when such facilities are not available; and defining roles and responsibilities of parties involved in the distribution of vaccines, “particularly government authorities and NGOs, to assist safe, fast and equitable distribution as broadly as possible”.

Industry preparedness for vaccine distribution includes timely regulatory approvals and storage and clearance by customs and health authorities will be essential. Priorities for border processes include introducing fast-track procedures for overflight and landing permits for operations carrying the Covid-19 vaccine and potential tariff relief to facilitate the movement of the vaccine.

“Arrangements must be in place to ensure that shipments remain secure from tampering and theft. Processes are in place already, but the huge volume of vaccine shipments will require early planning to ensure that they are scalable,” Iata said.

Iata’s guidance said the vaccine manufacturer needs to apply for regulatory approval for the vaccine to be shipped and stored in a deep-frozen state, making ultra-cold chain facilities across the supply chain essential.

“Considerations include the availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment and staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines,” it said.

The Guidance was produced with the support of a broad range of partners, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, Pan American Health Organisation, UK Civil Aviation Authority, the World Bank, World Customs Organisation and the World Trade Organization.

The guidance includes a repository of international standards and guidelines related to the transport of vaccines and will be updated regularly as information is made available to the industry.


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