Shipping of a coronavirus virus worldwide would be the “biggest transportation challenge” according to the airline industry.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has stated that the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s would be needed.
There is no Kovid-19 vaccine yet, but IATA is already working closely with airlines, airports, global health bodies and pharmaceutical companies.
The delivery schedule assumes that only one dose per person is needed.
Alexander de Juniak, chief executive officer of IATA, said, “The delivery of the Kovid-19 vaccine will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it will not happen without careful advance planning. And now the time has come.”
While airlines have focused their attention on delivering cargo during a steep decline in passenger flights, shipping vaccines are far more complex.
Not all aircraft are suitable for delivering vaccines because they require a specific temperature range between 2 and 8C to transport drugs. Some vaccines may require frozen temperatures that will exclude more aircraft.
“We know the processes well. What we need to do is raise them to the magnitude that will be required,” said Gillin Hughes, head of industry body cargo.
He added that flights would be important for parts of the world, including some regions of Southeast Asia, because they lack vaccine-production capabilities.
Delivering a vaccine across Africa would be “impossible” right now, IATA says, given the lack of cargo capacity, area size, and cross-border complexities.
Transportation would require “almost military accuracy” and cold facilities on a network of locations where the vaccine would be stored.
About 140 vaccines are in early development, and about two dozen are now being tested on people in clinical trials.
One is being developed by Oxford University which is already in an advanced stage of testing.
The IATA has urged governments to initiate a careful plan to be fully prepared once vaccination is available for approval and delivery.
Safety is another issue with ensuring that they are handled and transported at controlled temperatures.
IATA said, “Vaccines will be highly valuable items. Arrangements should be in place to ensure that shipments are protected from tampering and theft.”