The International Air Transport Association warns governments around the world that the air cargo industry could potentially face severe capacity constraints that could prevent the timely distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The safe delivery of COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But this will not happen without careful advance planning. And now is the time for that, ”IATA CEO and CEO Alexander de Juniac said in a statement. “We call on governments to take the lead in facilitating cooperation throughout the logistics chain so that facilities, security mechanisms and border processes are ready for the mammoth and complex task ahead.”
The trade group noted that 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo planes would be needed to deliver a single dose to 7.8 billion people alone.
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To ensure that vaccines are maintained and transported in a timely manner, IATA stressed the importance of having temperature-controlled facilities, trained staff and robust monitoring capabilities.
The organization also noted that vaccines will be “extremely valuable goods” that will require measures introduced in advance to ensure that shipments are protected from possible counterfeiting or theft.
In addition, IATA calls on governments to introduce rapid procedures for the transportation of air cargo carrying the COVID-19 vaccine across borders, including the release of flight crew members for quarantine, the abolition of curfews, and the prioritization of shipments on arrival in order to prevent potential temperature deviations caused by delays, and relieve tariffs.
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The warning comes as air cargo capacity has been severely affected by the pandemic, as airlines have reduced their networks and placed aircraft in long-term storage due to reduced demand.
“Even assuming that half of the vaccines needed can be transported by land, the air freight industry will still face its biggest one-off transport challenge to date,” de Juniac added. “When planning its vaccination programs, especially in developing countries, governments must consider very carefully the limited air cargo capacity currently available. If borders remain closed, voyages shortened, fleets grounded and staff removed, capacity to deliver life-saving vaccines will be severely compromised. “
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 27.9 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and more than 905,000 deaths. The United States accounts for more than 6.3 million of these cases and more than 191,000 of these deaths.
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