Coronavirus vaccine update: As researchers are facing a daunting task of developing a Coronavirus vaccine in a war footing manner, the logistical challenge of distribution of vaccine when it is ready must be addressed sooner rather than later. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has stated that this is the right time to prepare for the transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine citing potentially severe capacity constraints in transporting vaccines by air. IATA has urged governments to begin careful planning with industry stakeholders to ensure full preparedness when vaccines for COVID-19 are approved and are available for distribution.
Air cargo plays a key role in the distribution of vaccines in normal times through well-established global time- and temperature-sensitive distribution systems. Vaccines must be handled and transported in line with international regulatory requirements, at controlled temperatures, and without delay to ensure the quality of the product, IATA said.
Few factors are key to air transportation of Vaccine. These are –
1. Availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment – maximizing the use or re-purposing of existing infrastructure and minimizing temporary builds.
2. Availability of staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines.
3. Robust monitoring capabilities to ensure the integrity of the vaccines is maintained, IATA said in a statement.
Vaccines will be highly valuable commodities and security will be one pivotal aspect. Arrangements must be in place to keep ensure that shipments remain secure from tampering and theft, IATA said.
IATA has said that 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, the IATA said.
On top of the transport preparations and coordination needed, governments must also consider the current diminished cargo capacity of the global air transport industry. The WHO, UNICEF and Gavi have already reported severe difficulties in maintaining their planned vaccine programs during the COVID-19 crisis due, in part, to limited air connectivity, IATA has warned.
“Delivering billions of doses of vaccine to the entire world efficiently will involve hugely complex logistical and programmatic obstacles all the way along the supply chain. We look forward to working together with government, vaccine manufacturers, and logistical partners to ensure an efficient global roll-out of a safe and affordable COVID-19 vaccine,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private global health partnership. It has the goal of ensuring equal access to immunization in poor countries.