Air cargo executives have told the Wall Street Journal that it will likely take „up to two years” for coronavirus vaccines to be delivered around the globe.
The sobering news comes at a time when the world’s population has their hopes pinned on a vaccine allowing life to ‚return to normal’ by the middle of 2021.
According to Michael Steen, chief commercial officer at Atlas Air, the delivery of the vaccine „is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the transportation industry.”
It is said that the air-cargo industry have plans to transport as many as 20 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine. However, individual air-cargo operators do not have any specific data on how many doses of the vaccine they will have to transport, where the vaccines will be produced or how they can be safely transported. This naturally makes future planning near-impossible to make.
As has been widely reported, it is highly likely coronavirus vaccines will need to be refrigerated or frozen at temperatures as low as -70°C. In order to keep the vaccines at this temperature throughout the delivery process, cargo carriers are investing in so-called „freezer farms” at airport hubs, as well as new systems to track the temperature.
The challenging nature of installing this infrastructure also means that it will be difficult for carriers to transport doses of the vaccine at the last minute. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal report that anything from 5% to 20% of a batch of vaccines can become spoiled if their are any refrigeration problems.
Another issue that will likely complicate delivery of a vaccine is the fall in the number of passenger flights, which has led to a reduction in cargo-hold freight capacity.
The report from the Wall Street Journal comes just a month after IATA’s director general and CEO described the delivery of the vaccine as the „mission of the century for the global air cargo industry.”
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