The key to success in vaccine transport

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Yulia Celetaria

Yulia Celetaria, global healthcare director, Volga-Dnepr Group, explained to ACW the key to success with temperature sensitive and time critical vaccine transportation.

AirBridgeCargo, part of the Volga-Dnepr Group, is IATA CEIV certified, having had the certificate reconfirmed in 2019. However, Celetaria explained: “we are also taking additional steps through a 360-degree approach to embrace all the areas of our business.”

These include:

• Temperature mapping of all freighters within the Group fleet to understand which parts of cargo compartments work best for vaccines

• Special solutions for logistics of temp-controlled containers after completion of vaccine transportation (as part of the AC equipment, through charter options, etc)

• Working under various options for vaccine delivery on board all types of the Group freighters (Boeing 747F, Boeing 737F, Boeing 777F, An-124-100/150, Il-76TD-90VD)

• Regular shipments of other vaccines, as well as vaccine-related shipments (equipment, vials, injections, etc) which are essential for vaccine production

• Station profile across its temperature-sensitive facilities and capabilities

• Risk assessment of the airports within and outside of the existing network

• Workshops with vaccine manufacturers, freight forwarders, ground handling agents, airports, container leasing providers and other stakeholders

• Regular dialogue with governmental, global healthcare organizations and other legal entities

• Industry association – Pharma.Aero

• Validaide risk assessment

• Internal trainings of Sales, Marketing, Operations and Procurement personnel.

“As of last year, amid the pandemic, we strengthened our Global Healthcare Team to respond to our customers’ requirements in the most effective manner, we renewed all master lease agreements with the leading container providers to have an access to a pool of temperature-controlled ULDs, we approached OEM to expand dry ice limits as some vaccines might require dry ice transportations,” said Celetaria.

“These are just a few initiatives and actions we have taken, as this is a complex process which unites a lot of stakeholders and we have cooperated with all of them accordingly to guarantee vaccine integrity during air freight.”

Fewer deliveries than expected

“We are working with a number of freight forwarders, manufacturers and authorized vaccine distributors with respect to stable transportations. So far, we have operated a number of charters from China, Europe and Russia with different types of vaccines aboard delivering almost 100 tonnes of vital medicines (CanSino, Sputnik and others) and are processing more requests at the moment,” Celetaria explained.

But, despite being ready to transport the vaccine across the world, Celetaria said there have actually been fewer deliveries than expected.

“This was firstly explained by prioritisation of national vaccination programmes with each country focusing on its population (and no need for airfreight as vaccines are delivered by land), some problems with vaccines of certain manufacturers, and slower production rates.

“Another tendency, which has not been taken into account previously is the so-called localisation of production as the countries want to guarantee stable vaccine production rate with enough shots for the whole population and build local production sites.

“That said, we have seen an increased demand for transportation of production line equipment, which will scale up local vaccine manufacturing across various countries.

“As such filling lines are mostly outsized and heavy, we use our dedicated An-124 fleet for it. With the resurgence of COVID-19 and increasing number of new cases in various countries we have also seen stable demand for test kits (in Europe) and oxygen tanks (with the recent outbreak and devastating situation in India).”