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CNN – As global pharmaceutical companies race to complete their Covid-19 vaccine trials, the logistics that will be required to deliver them to all corners of the world are coming into focus — and it will be a mission like no other.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), providing a single dose of the vaccine to 7.8 billion people will require the use of 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft — and planning needs to begin now.
“Safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry,” said IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, in a statement.
“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.”
The air cargo industry has long played an important role in vaccine distribution, providing well-established time- and temperature-sensitive systems — which will be crucial to the quick and efficient transport of Covid-19 vaccines, notes IATA.
Dozens of research teams around the world are working to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, using a mix of established techniques and new technologies.
There are currently 29 vaccines being tested in multiple human trials, running simultaneously around the world.
Once a vaccine is approved for use, licensing and large-scale manufacturing takes place. But without proper planning, these vaccines won’t be able to fly the skies.
Among the major concerns cited by IATA is the availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment, along with trained staff. Robust monitoring capabilities will need to be in place too.
And then there are the current border restrictions, which will need to be eased. Permits for operators carrying the vaccine will need to be fast tracked, and the flight crew members exempted from quarantine requirements to ensure cargo supply chains are maintained, says IATA.
Security is another concern, with IATA noting that vaccines will be highly valuable commodities. Shipments will need to be secured and protected from tampering and theft.