The first batch of one million Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccines, co-developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, to be supplied to Hong Kong were delivered by Cathay Pacific from Frankfurt on Saturday.
The vital cargo was unloaded as priority from the Cathay Pacific freighter flight to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal. The movement of the vaccines were facilitated by the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) and Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) which also saw the transshipment of another batch to Macao through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB).
The one million doses of Sinovac vaccine were loaded inside six temperature-controlled Envirotainer RAP e2 containers, to maintain the vaccine temperature range of 2°C to 8°C. The vaccine cargo was carried in the belly hold of an A330 operating the scheduled passenger flight, CX391.
Tom Owen, Cathay Pacific director cargo says this was the first shipment to use the carrier’s new Ultra Track service, a key part of its Vaccine Solution.
To increase links with the European vaccine production hub, Cathay Pacific Cargo is adding a further two B777 cargo-only flights to operate on the Pharma Corridor between the CEIV-certified airport communities of Brussels and Hong Kong each week.
The Cathay Pacific shipments to date include the milestone import of the first vaccines for use in the airline’s home city of Hong Kong on 19 February.
On the same flight, there were 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine destined for Mexico. The single Envirotainer RAP e2 container was towed to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal in a thermal dolly and transferred to a cool room set at 15°-25°C, where it was recharged. It was later loaded for its midnight flight to Mexico City via Anchorage on a B747-8F freighter. Another shipment of 800,000 doses to Mexico will follow this week.
The carrier says the Cathay Pacific Cargo Vaccine Solution has proven to offer the high levels of quality assurance demanded by these vital shipments. The introduction of the Vaccine Solution included further training for warehouse and ramp staff for each specific vaccine, both in Hong Kong and the airports it serves.
“The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine must be transported in a deep frozen state, which requires more complex transportation and storage solutions,” says Owen. “Our Vaccine Solution has proven itself to be ideally suited to the fast and effective distribution of this and other vaccines across the globe, using our freighter and passenger fleet, and our extensive global network.”
Cathay Pacific had previously carried a CanSinoBIO vaccine shipment via Beijing and Hong Kong to Mexico earlier in February using the same equipment and schedule. The airline has already also transported a Fosun Pharma/BioNTech shipment to Penang, Malaysia on one of its freighters.
“This level of dedication and expertise has been recognised not only by our customers, but also UNICEF, which named Cathay Pacific Cargo as one of the select airlines for its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to support COVAX, the global effort aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Owen says.
Among a series of tailored arrangements put in place by the AA, the concerned airline, relevant government departments and other business partners, the aircraft carrying the vaccines was allocated a parking stand close to the cargo terminal handling the consignment to allow the quickest delivery.
Priority unloading and towing were also arranged for the vaccine shipment, which then underwent expedited customs clearance and priority truck loading at the cargo terminal for a quick release.