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Supply Chain Industry Updates

Vaccine Distribution Not Ready for Takeoff


The good news: A majority of surveyed airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airport operators and solution providers have begun preparations to handle, store, transport and deliver future COVID-19 vaccines.

The not-as-good news: Only 28% feel they are “well prepared” for what is certain to be a massive undertaking. The two trade groups that sponsored the study, Pharma.Aero and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), blamed the troubling situation on a lack of coordination and communication with probable vaccine manufacturers.

“We as an industry are as strong as our weakest link,” said Emir Pineda, a member of TIACA’s board of directors. “To move the needle on industry readiness, we need to ensure everyone is engaged and informed. Only with a strong and transparent dialogue between pharmaceutical and air cargo sectors, governments, non-governmental organizations and healthcare institutions can we overcome these challenges. The sooner, the better.”

The organizations made several suggestions to smooth the path to safe and efficient vaccine distribution. They included:

  • Vaccines manufacturers should involve all their air cargo logistics providers as early as possible.
  • Each air cargo stakeholder should map its existing capabilities at each location and share this information.
  • Dry ice, active containers, trained staff and cold chain space availability should be secured early.
  • The use of tracking and monitoring devices should be encouraged and the approval process for their safe use in flight needs to start as soon as possible.
  • The rollout of digital solutions and data-sharing platforms should be accelerated.

“We are still at early stages of industry preparation for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still a lot of unknowns,” said Nathan De Valck, chairman of Pharma.Aero’s board of directors. “Delivering COVID-19 vaccines is a lifesaving mission which will need a combination of people, infrastructure, standards, packaging solutions and collaboration. Getting the equation right requires us to work together now.”

An executive summary of the report can be found here.


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