The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and Pharma.Aero express “strong concern” over the current state of air cargo industry readiness for the coming COVID-19 vaccine transport, with only 28 per cent expressing readiness.
In what the two organsiations described as a “concerning lack of readiness for COVID-19 vaccine logistics,” a joint industry survey indicated the majority of the air cargo supply chain is not yet prepared with 19 per cent feeling “very unprepared”.
The two organisations undertook the industry survey in August as part of their Sunrays Project in preparation for Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The Sunrays airfreight readiness survey showed only 28 per cent of the respondents scored 8, 9 or 10 to the question: “From 1 to 10, how well-informed and prepared is your organisation in the global air transportation of Covid-19 vaccines?”
Of the 181 airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airport operators and solution providers that responded, the majority of industry players indicated they have begun preparation to handle, store, transport and deliver the future COVID-19 vaccines. And while they are setting up dedicated teams, engaging with partners, mapping and upgrading their capabilities, as well as developing new services, they are not yet fully prepared.
And confidence also varies within the different sectors with solution providers scoring the highest at 7.22 out of 10, followed by airlines at 6.63, forwarders at 6.26 and airports and ground handlers the least confident at 5.88 and 5.55 respectively.
Compared to companies which are already in close engagement with vaccine manufacturers, companies not involved in direct conversations with the manufacturers felt the least prepared for the upcoming logistics challenge of vaccines transportation, the Sunrays survey found.
“We as an industry are as strong as our weakest link,” Emir Pineda, member of TIACA’s Board of Directors and co-lead of the Sunrays project highlighted. “To move the needle on industry readiness, we need to ensure everyone is engaged and informed.
“Only with a strong and transparent dialogue between pharmaceutical and air cargo sectors, governments, non-governmental organisations and healthcare institutions can we overcome these challenges. The sooner, the better,” Pineda, adds.
Among the priority areas identified for action:
- Focus on industry collaboration between pharma and air cargo sectors;
- Improve visibility and transparency;
- Build adequate capabilities;
- Get support from regulators to speed up the process and remove cumbersome procedures;
- Get help from international organisations and donors to ensure no country is left behind.
This will ensure maximum air cargo preparedness to meet shippers’ needs and expectations for speed, security, reliability and transparency and ultimately save lives, the two organisations say.
In particular the the Sunrays Project urges greater collaboration saying vaccine manufacturers should involve all their air cargo logistics providers as early as possible. And this should involve all air cargo stakeholders, including airports and ground handlers.
Each air cargo stakeholder should map its existing capabilities at each location and make this information available, the partners urge. Dry ice, active containers, trained staff, and cold chain space availability should be secured early. And infrastructure investment decisions should be made as early as possible.
They also say the use of tracking and monitoring devices should be encouraged and the approval process for their safe use in flight needs to start as soon as possible. Rollout of digital solutions and data sharing platforms should also be accelerated.
Governments, customs authorities, and border agencies should be ready to facilitate and expedite all COVID-19-related goods the Sunrays team highlights. International organisations, NGOs and donors should support cool chain capacity building efforts in least developed countries to ensure no one is left behind in the upcoming global immunisation campaign.
“We are still at early stages of industry preparation for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines and there are still a lot of unknowns,” says Nathan De Valck, chairman of Pharma.Aero’s Board of Directors and member of the Sunrays project. “Delivering COVID-19 vaccines is a life-saving mission which will need a combination of people, infrastructure, standards, packaging solutions and collaboration. Getting the equation right requires us to work together now.”