TIACA and Pharma.Aero express concern over air cargo sector’s readiness for COVID-19 vaccines

Posted: 15 October 2020 | | No comments yet

According to TIACA’s air freight readiness survey, only 28 per cent of the industry was found to be feeling well prepared to transport future COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines

The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), together with Pharma.Aero, has expressed a strong concern over the current state of air cargo readiness for the upcoming COVID-19 vaccines transportation, with only 28 per cent of the industry found to be feeling well prepared for it.

According to the results of TIACA’s air freight readiness survey – which was completed by 181 airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airport operators and solution providers – the majority of industry players have begun the preparation to handle, store, transport and deliver future COVID-19 vaccines. They are setting up dedicated teams, engaging with partners and mapping and upgrading their capabilities, as well as developing new services.

As compared to companies which are already in close engagement with vaccine manufacturers, companies not involved in direct conversations with the manufacturers felt the least prepared for the upcoming logistics challenge of vaccine transportation.

Emir Pineda, Member of TIACA’s Board of Directors and co-lead of the Sunrays project, initiated by TIACA and Pharma.Aero, said: “We, as an industry, are as strong as our weakest link. 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 organisations and healthcare institutions can we overcome these challenges. The sooner, the better.”

Areas of priority

A focus on industry collaboration between pharma and air cargo sectors; improving visibility and transparency; building adequate capabilities; getting the support from regulators to speed up the process and remove cumbersome procedures; and the help from international organisations and donors to ensure that no country is left behind will ensure maximum air cargo preparedness to meet shippers’ needs and expectations for speed, security, reliability and transparency and, ultimately, save lives.

Strengthening industry collaboration

  • Vaccine manufacturers should involve all of their air cargo logistics providers as early as possible
  • All air cargo stakeholders shall be involved in the conversation, including airports and ground handlers.

Ramping-up air cargo capabilities

  • Each air cargo stakeholder should map its existing capabilities at each location and make this information available
  • Dry ice, active containers, trained staff and cold chain space availability should be secured early
  • Infrastructure investment decisions should be made as early as possible.

Improving visibility

  • 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
  • Rollout of digital solutions and data sharing platforms should be accelerated.

Removing barriers

  • Governments, customs authorities and border agencies should be ready to facilitate and expedite all COVID-19-related goods
  • International organisations, non-governmental organisations and donors should support cool chain capacity building efforts in less developed countries to ensure that no one is left behind in the upcoming global immunisation campaign.

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

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