KLM Is Gearing Up For Transporting COVID Vaccines

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is gearing up its transport operations as it gets ready to deliver vital COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. During the current global pandemic, KLM and its air freight network have transported personal protective equipment and other critical medical products to healthcare institutions and individuals. Now the vast logistical task will be to transport the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

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Up to 15 billion doses of the vaccine will need to be delivered. Photo: KLM

The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) urges governments to work with the airlines and airports to ensure they are prepared for when the vaccine arrives. IATA is also warning governments of the possibility of severe capacity constraints posed by aircraft transporting the vaccine.

Delivering the vaccine is a mammoth task

During regular times the transportation of time and temperature-sensitive materials is difficult, but nothing like it will be when faced with the mammoth task of delivering a vaccine for COVID-19.

“Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning. And the time for that is now. We urge governments to take the lead in facilitating cooperation across the logistics chain so that the facilities, security arrangements, and border processes are ready for the mammoth and complex task ahead,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac in a statement.

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The COVID-19 vaccine is both time and temperature-sensitive. Photo: KLM

15 billion doses

Health experts estimate that around 15 billion doses of the vaccine will need to be distributed worldwide. Many of which will need to be transported at extremely low temperatures. To give you an idea of how temperature-sensitive, Pfizers COVID-19 vaccine needs to be shipped frozen at -70°C degrees Celsius. While there are still many unknowns, we know that systems and regulations must be in place to ensure the vaccine’s safe distribution.

Priorities to provide the necessary facilities for the distributions of the vaccine include the following:

  • Staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines
  • Temperature-controlled facilities and equipment 
  • Monitoring capabilities to ensure the integrity of the vaccines is maintained
  • Minimizing temporary build by modifying existing infrastructure
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As many as 15 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine will need to be transported. Photo: KLM

The COVID-19 vaccine will be a highly valuable commodity which must remain safe from tampering and theft. Arrangments must be in place with borders and customs officers to ensure fast regulatory approvals not to jeopardize the vaccine’s integrity. Other helpful measures could include:

  • The introduction of fast-track procedures for overflight and landing permits
  • Exempting crew members from quarantine
  • Removing night-time curfews and allowing airports to stay open around the clock
  • Temporary traffic rights for operators delivering the vaccine
  • Granting priority arrival over other air traffic

KLM is ready

In a press release from KLM on Friday, the Netherlands national flag carriers say that it has the logistical solutions to ensure the vaccine maintains a constant temperature throughout its distribution. In the press release KLM CEO Pieter Elbers says:

“The prospect of the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine is very good news. At the same time, it brings a new challenge; a fast and safe transport of billions of vaccines worldwide. We are ready for this, and that is thanks to colleagues and partners who have worked hard on this together. 

“KLM has previously contributed to the airlift for a flow of approximately 90 million mouth masks, protective clothing, and respiratory equipment. Now we are going to bring the vaccine safely and quickly to the Netherlands and the rest of the world. I am proud that our Cargo colleagues will carry out this complex and responsible task.”

Have you any ideas as to how the vaccine can be delivered in a fast and timely manner? If so, please tell us in the comments.


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