LONDON – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has made a statement urging governments to plan ahead and work along with key industry stakeholders to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution once a suitable immunization is ready and internationally available.

IATA’s statement comes as vaccine transportation is at the forefront of many officials’ minds. The logistical challenge is comprised of a complex set of processes that involves careful timing and the use of temperature-sensitive distribution systems to be effectively delivered across the world.

A6-EFG Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777. Credits: Filippo Martini-RomeAviationSpotters

Vaccine Development and Transport

The COVID-19 vaccine is being developed in record time and most of the world is eagerly awaiting its approval to return to normality. IATA believes that coordination between governments, manufacturers, transport agents, and other industry players will prove critical to make sure it is distributed effectively and on time.

Vaccines need to be transported at a controlled temperature, require robust tracking and monitoring throughout their journeys, and have to be handled with little to no room for error. In AVSEC terms, this is called the secure supply chain and follows the Consignment Security Declaration (CSD) that provides an audit trail of how, when, and by whom specific cargo shipments have been secured along the supply chain.

IATA supports members with implementing the practices outlined by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Annex 17 and the Aviation Security Manual (doc 8973).

UR-82007 Antonov Design Bureau at FCO/LIRF Airport. Credits: Daniel Veronesi-RomeAviationSpotters

Governments Urged to Take the Lead

As stakeholders expect an unprecedented number of doses available in a short amount of time, IATA believes that the industry needs to ensure the availability of temperature-controlled facilities, trained staff, and monitoring capabilities for when the vaccine is ready.

To do so, it believes that governments should take the lead in enabling effective dialogue, coordination, and cooperation throughout the global chain of logistics.

In a statement, IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said, “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.”

For more information, the Perishable Cargo Regulations manual is an essential reference guide for all parties involved in the packaging and handling of temperature-sensitive products such as the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine. 

4L-GEN Geo-Sky Boeing 747-200B(SF) at FCO/LIRF. Credits: Daniel Veronesi-RomeAviationSpotters

Comments from Vacci CEO

Additionally, Seth Berkley, CEO of Vacci, the Vaccine Alliance, an organization that helps improve equal access to vaccinations across the world, said, “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.”

Logistics throughout the journey will not be the only challenge that lies ahead for governments and other key stakeholders in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. So too will be belly capacity.

In that vein, IATA has pointed to the issue that the substantial reduction in commercial passenger operations has also pushed down the availability of cargo capacity in many routes around the world.

CN-ROW Royal Air Maroc Cargo Boeing 767-300ER(BCF). Credits: Filippo Martini-RomeAviationSpotters

Airlines Efforts against COVID-19

The organization said that providing a single dose to the world’s population would require 8,000 Boeing 747 aircraft filled with cargo, meaning it could take much longer than ideal to ship doses around the world in their appropriate amounts.

In the past months, airlines have made their efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Hi Fly retrofitting its flagship Airbus A380 (9H-MIP) for cargo operations, or Lufthansa (LH) converting the Airbus A380 in an A380F.

Additionally, many airlines started to remove the seats from their biggest aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and 787 to fill them with cargo loads. In other cases, they have taken boxes and stored them on the seats. Let see if governments and key stakeholders heed the words of IATA and unite further for when the vaccine arrives.

Featured image: CargoJet B767 Landing at LHR – Credits: Filippo Martini-RomeAviationSpotters