IATA’s Guidance for Vaccine and Pharmaceutical Logistics and Distribution provides recommendations for governments and the logistics supply chain to ensure the air cargo industry is ready for large-scale distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine
It includes a repository of international standards and guidelines on the transport of vaccines that will be updated regularly
It addresses key challenges such as availability of temperature-controlled storage facilities, and defining roles and responsibilities of parties involved in distribution
Efficiently delivering billions of doses of a vaccine in a deep-frozen state will involve hugely complex logistical challenges across the supply chain, said IATA
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released guidance to ensure the air cargo industry is ready to support the large-scale handling, transport and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
IATA’s Guidance for Vaccine and Pharmaceutical Logistics and Distribution provides recommendations to prepare governments and the logistics supply chain for the largest and most complex global logistics operation that will ever be undertaken, the association said in a statement.
The Guidance was produced in partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organization, International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, Pan American Health Organization, UK Civil Aviation Authority, World Bank, World Customs Organization, and World Trade Organization, among others.
It includes a repository of international standards and guidelines on the transport of vaccines that is to be updated regularly as information becomes available.
IATA established a joint information-sharing forum for stakeholders to accompany the guidance.
“Delivering billions of doses of a vaccine that must be transported and stored in a deep-frozen state to the entire world efficiently will involve hugely complex logistical challenges across the supply chain,” IATA director general and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac said.
“While the immediate challenge is the implementation of COVID-19 testing measures to re-open borders without quarantine, we must be prepared for when a vaccine is ready. This guidance material is an important part of those preparations,” de Juniac added.
IATA said key challenges addressed in the Guidance include:
- The availability of temperature-controlled storage facilities and contingencies when such facilities are not available
- Defining roles and responsibilities of parties involved in the distribution of vaccines, particularly government authorities and NGOs, to assist safe, fast and equitable distribution as broadly as possible
- Industry preparedness for vaccine distribution including capacity and connectivity, facilities and infrastructure, border management, and security.
IATA noted that the global route network has been reduced dramatically from the 22,000 city pairs existing pre-COVID-19, and that governments need to re-establish air connectivity to ensure adequate capacity is available for vaccine distribution.
On facilities and infrastructure, IATA said the first vaccine manufacturer to apply for regulatory approval requires the vaccine to be shipped and stored in a deep-frozen state, making ultra-cold chain facilities across the supply chain essential. Some types of refrigerants are classified as dangerous goods and volumes are regulated which adds an additional layer of complexity. Considerations include availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment and staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines.
On border management, timely regulatory approvals and storage and clearance by customs and health authorities will be essential, IATA noted.
Priorities for border processes include introducing fast-track procedures for overflight and landing permits for operations carrying the COVID-19 vaccine and potential tariff relief to facilitate the movement of the vaccine.
Lastly on security, arrangements must be in place to ensure shipments remain secure from tampering and theft as vaccines are highly valuable commodities.
IATA said processes are in place already, but the huge volume of vaccine shipments will require early planning to ensure that they are scalable.
According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 48 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 164 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation as of November 12.
Currently, two vaccine candidates from two US companies have been shown, based on clinical trials, to be more than 90% effective against SARS-Cov 2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.