As countries begin placing orders and administering COVID-19 vaccines, questions have been asked about who will handle the logistical nightmare that is transportation and distribution of the vaccines (when they become available) in Africa.
Ethiopian airlines has announced the launch of a cold chain air freight to transport temperature-sensitive medicines, including a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
“Ethiopian Airlines will repeat its remarkable and globally recognized success in leading the fast delivery of PPEs 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”, said Ethiopian Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam.
In preparing for the task ahead, the airline has signed a partnership agreement with with Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, the logistics arm of China’s Alibaba Group, to launch a cold chain air freight for transporting temperature-controlled medicines.
Freighters carrying medicines will depart Shenzhen, southern China twice a week to Africa, and to the rest of the world via Dubai and Addis Ababa, according to a press release.
The airline noted that the entire cold chain cabin will be equipped with a temperature control system that monitors the cabin’s temperature in real-time.
The 54,000sqm cargo terminal in Ethiopia has also been outfitted with compartmentalized cold storage facilities with temperature between -23°C to 25.
So far, almost all vaccine candidates available need ultra-cold temperatures to transport or store.
The airline was key in helping to move tons of medical supplies meant for coronavirus response in Africa.
On top of its 12 dedicated cargo aircraft, Ethiopian reconfigured 25 passenger planes to turn them into freighters to respond to increased cargo demand.
China has about five coronavirus vaccine candidates at different human trial stages. President Xi Jinping has said that once approved, the vaccines will be made a global public good.
In Nairobi, Kenya Airways (KQ) unveiled its ultra-modern pharma facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
KQ Cargo Director Dick Murianki said the facility’s immediate focus will be improving logistics in distributing a potential COVID-19 vaccine in Africa.