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Guidelines for Safe Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccine Required

By Alicia Arizpe | Thu, 11/19/2020 - 14:44

As researchers move closer to launching a COVID-19 vaccine, the logistic hurdles involved in delivering it to as many people as possible are being brought to light. Under these circumstances, aviation organizations are stepping up to generate guidelines that facilitate the smooth delivery of the vaccine once it is developed.

One of the main concerns across the globe during most of 2020 was when would a COVID-19 vaccine be available. Now, several institutions including Pfizer, Gamaleya Institute and AstraZeneca are touting their positive immune response and safety of their developments. With some luck, one or several of these will be deemed safe and be made available to the public. Once that happens, the challenge will be to manufacture it in sufficiently large amounts and deliver as many doses as necessary to those who need them.

Governments, businesses and associations are already studying and reinforcing their supply chains in preparation. Mexico, for example, is already working to build the capabilities to transport and store the future vaccine, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard. While he acknowledged that proper distribution would be a challenge, he explained that Mexico’s logistics capacity was up to the task. Otherwise, “Mexico would not have signed the [vaccine acquisition] contract with Pfizer.”

To streamline the handling, transportation and distribution of a future COVID-19 vaccine, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released the Guidance for Vaccine and Pharmaceutical Logistics and Distribution. This document, created in alliance with the World Bank, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and other global organizations, aims to help governments and logistic operators prepare for what might be “the largest and most complex global logistics operation ever undertaken.”

Based on current best practices for the transportation of other vaccines, the guide identifies several key challenges, chief among them locating available temperature-controlled facilities and building contingencies if they are unavailable. “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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA. The document also highlights the importance of rebuilding air connectivity to secure capacity for eventual vaccine distribution. Globally, capacity has been hit by the drastic reduction in passenger travel as about 50 percent of the world’s air cargo travels in the bellies of commercial aircraft. In Mexico, cargo travel has shrunk by 18.7 percent during the first nine months of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Federal Agency of Civil Aviation (AFAC).

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer

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