Cainiao Smart Logistics Network is partnering with Ethiopian Airlines to launch a special cold chain air freight solution for temperature-controlled medicines from Shenzhen Airport (SZX), including Covid-19 vaccines.
China currently has five coronavirus candidates from four companies which have reached the final phase three clinical trials, before regulatory approval is sought.
The cold-chain tie-up is in preparation for the coming months when China will be sending hundreds of millions of doses of its vaccines to countries that have conducted last-stage trials for its leading candidates. Having largely eliminated the coronavirus inside its borders, Chinese pharma companies had to look abroad to test their vaccines, which included phase three trials in at least 16 countries.
The Chinese government has also promised a growing list of developing countries priority access to its successful vaccines.
The temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, will be distributed twice a week from Shenzhen to Africa, and to the rest of the world via Dubai (DXB) and Addis Ababa (ADD).
Cainiao Smart Logistics Network is the logistics arm of the Alibaba Group, China’s largest e-commerce platform.
This is China’s first cross-border medical cold chain route to be operated on a regular basis and is certified to transport temperature-controlled medicines including COVID-19 vaccines.
The end-to-end transportation process requires a highly effective cold chain management and SCX is the fourth airport in Mainland China to obtain International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certification for pharmaceutical logistics.
Shenzhen Airport is also equipped to handle biotechnology products and has a total of 350 sqm of climate-controlled facilities.
The cargo terminal in Ethiopia is outfitted with compartmentalised cold storage facilities with temperatures between -23℃ to 25℃. It occupies an area of 54,000 sqm, with dedicated cool dollies and pharma team, as well as a real-time temperature monitoring system to ensure safe and seamless cold chain logistics for handling temperature-sensitive healthcare products.
“Cainiao’s global logistics network spans over 200 countries and regions, providing end-to-end integrated logistics services, including digital customs clearance capabilities,” says James Zhao, general manager of Cainiao International Supply Chain.
“The launch of the cold chain air freight has further bolstered our global logistics capabilities, and allow us to offer a one-stop solution for the global distribution of medical products such as the COVID-19 vaccines.”
Tewolde GebreMariam, Ethiopian Group CEO comments: “Ethiopian Airlines will repeat its remarkable and globally recognised success in leading the fast delivery of PPEs a few months ago with similar delivery speed, professional handling and maintaining the cold chain during the forthcoming global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine release, we will be at the forefront to further discharge our responsibility in the distribution of the vaccine across the globe.”
Cainiao’s launch of the ‘Green Channel’ Initiative this year to fight the pandemic has helped in the distribution of 250 million pieces of PPEs, including COVID-19 test kits, to medical suppliers in over 150 countries and regions. In collaboration with its partners, Cainiao has also helped to transport medical relief items for international organisations during the pandemic.
China’s vaccine supply to large parts of the world is widely seen as a key opportunity to repair its image – labeled ‘vaccine diplomacy’ – after it was severely damaged by its initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sinovac Biotech, a Nasdaq-listed drugmaker based in Beijing, has signed deals to provide 46 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Brazil and 50 million doses to Turkey. It will also supply 40 million doses of the vaccine in bulk form (prior to being divided into individual dosages).
CanSino Biologics, which developed a Covid-19 vaccine with a research unit of the Chinese military, will deliver 35 million doses of its vaccine to Mexico, one of the five host countries of its trials.
China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), has two vaccine candidates both of which are undergoing phase three trials in 10 countries, mostly in the Middle East and South America. CNBG has said it is capable of producing more than one billion doses in 2021.
In October, China joined a World Health Organisation-backed global initiative to ensure the rapid and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to rich and poor countries alike.
The project, known as COVAX, is designed to discourage governments from hoarding coronavirus vaccines and instead focus on vaccinating high-risk groups in every country. The US is not part of the initiative, largely because of outgoing President Donald Trump’s dislike of the WHO.