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Major airlines to deliver COVID-19 vaccines through new airfreight initiative

UNICEF delivers essential medical equipment to Uganda in early February

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT  |  Fifteen airlines have said an agreement with UNICEF to support its   ‘Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative’,  to secure transport for COVID-19 vaccines with the the onset of vaccination in different countries across the world. 

The airlines are backing the landmark initiative to prioritize delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, essential medicines and other critical supplies across the globe.  Under the arrangement, airlines covering routes to over 100 countries will support the COVAX Facility – the global effort aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.  

The companies that have so far joined the Initiative include AirBridge Cargo, Air France/KLM, Astral Aviation and Brussels Airlines.  Other airlines that have signed are Cargolux, Cathay Pacific, Emirates Skycargo, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, IAG Cargo, Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways, SAUDIA, Singapore Airlines Ltd and United Airlines.

Their task is to prioritize shipments of these much-anticipated drugs and ensure that measures such as temperature control and security are strictly followed. According to the World Health Organisation, 145 countries will receive doses to immunize an average of three per cent of their populations, starting in the first half of 2021, and subject to all requirements being met and allocation plans finalized.

“Delivery of these life-saving vaccines is a monumental and complex undertaking, considering the sheer volumes that need to be transported, the cold chain requirements, and the number of expected deliveries and the diversity of routes” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF Supply Division. 

The plan according to COVAX was to start distribution this month with now more vaccine candidates being approved for emergency use. So far four vaccines have received approval from the World Health Organization. They include the Pfizer/ BioNtech candidate and three AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccines produced in the United Kingdom, Korea and India.

According to the new UNICEF statement, the airline companies have also committed to increasing freight capacity to routes where the drugs are much needed, in case it happens.

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