The airline industry–specifically air-cargo specialists–have been working to plan vaccine distribution as best they can. The problem is not knowing specifically what those requirements will be.
Air cargo certainly anticipates a huge role after the expected approval for companies such as Pfizer and Moderna from the Food and Drug Administration. “This is sort of an all hands on deck for distribution,” Cowen investment bank managing director and senior research analyst Helane Becker told Yahoo Finance Live.
As challenges arise for global supply chains–including successfully delivering vaccines–air cargo procedures will test manufacturers and shippers on lessons learned.
Glyn Hughes, head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, offered a quick Q&A: “If 50 million doses were available today, could we distribute them? The answer is almost certainly ‘No’, for every jurisdiction.”
With plans to deliver as many as 20 billion–with a “B”–COVID-19 vaccination doses, the air-cargo industry is having to plan for various contingencies without knowing where vaccines will be manufactured and how cold they have to be kept.
Cargo airline executives are anticipating a peak from December through early February, and are being helped by the passenger-airline industry. More freighters are joining the cargo fleet; Atlas returned some stored 747s and are converting around 100 planes to carry freight in its cabins.
“We’re planning for the mother of all peaks,” said Don Colleran, president of FedEx’s express division, on an investor call last month.
FedEx Corp. and the DHL arm of Deutsche Post AG are among the companies developing plans, such as introducing new temperature-monitoring systems to track shipments, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Cargo executives anticipate two years before vaccines can reach all of the world’s population because of challenges in emerging markets, including infrastructure.