The International Air Transport Association warns governments around the world that the air cargo industry could potentially face severe capacity limitations that could hinder the timely distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Safe delivery of COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful planning ahead. And the time is now, “IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement.”
The trade group noted that administering a single dose to 7.8 billion people would require 8,000 Boeing 747 freighters.
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In order to ensure the maintenance and transportation of vaccines in a timely manner, IATA stressed the importance of having temperature-controlled facilities and equipment, trained personnel and robust monitoring capabilities readily available.
The organization also noted that vaccines will be “high-value products” that will require arrangements in place in advance to ensure shipments are safe from any potential tampering or theft.
Additionally, IATA calls on governments to introduce expedited procedures for air cargo transporting COVID-19 vaccine across borders, including exemption for flight crew members for quarantine requirements, removal of hourly curfew operational, the priority of shipments on arrival to prevent potential temperature fluctuations due to delays and tariff cuts.
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The warning comes when air cargo capacity has been severely affected by the pandemic as airlines have downsized their networks and put planes in long-term storage due to decreased demand.
“Even assuming half of the necessary vaccines can be transported by land, the air cargo industry will still face its biggest transportation challenge ever,” added de Juniac. “In planning their vaccination programs, particularly in developing countries, governments need to take very careful consideration of the limited air cargo capacity available at the moment. If borders remain closed, travel is reduced, fleets are blocked and dismissed employees, the ability to provide life-saving vaccines will be greatly impaired. “
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 27.9 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide and over 905,000 related deaths. The United States accounts for more than 6.3 million of those cases and more than 191,000 of those deaths.
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