After months of preparation, European airline group Air France KLM Martinair (AFKLMP) Cargo confirmed it had already successfully shipped its first COVID-19 vaccines.
In a statement, Adriaan den Heijer, Executive Vice President at AFKLMP Cargo said, “In recent weeks, we successfully shipped the first COVID-19 vaccines. Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is ready for this logistical challenge, ready to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the Netherlands, to France and to many other countries around the globe.”
The company noted that in terms of volume, distributing the vaccines “will be an unprecedented logistical operation”, noting that the initial expectations are that around 15 billion vaccines will need to be distributed worldwide – with many of these also needing to be distributed at very low temperatures.
Earlier this week, American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, together with German partner BioNTech, announced great success in the first interim analysis from the Phase III study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
According to AFKLMP Cargo, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at deep frozen temperature of -700 Celsius. Others will need to be distributed at a constant temperature of between +2 and +80 Celsius. “This means that logistical solutions will be essential to maintain quality throughout the vaccine distribution chain,” it said.
“We believe that cooperation and building communities around the upcoming global vaccines distribution are essential,” said Den Heijer. “We’ve established partnerships with many of the parties in the logistical chain, including forwarders, trucking companies, container providers, airports, cargo and logistical associates, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare-related institutes and authorities. We believe that strong cooperation between partners will be essential to successfully executing this logistical challenge.”
Additionally, together with Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Aéroport de Paris (the two leading European Pharma hubs) AFKLMP said it has established two taskforces to fully prepare both airports communities for upcoming vaccine transport operations, while it has also established its own team to define the steps required to prepare itself for flying COVID-19 vaccines.
GertJan Roelands, Senior Vice President Sales and Distribution at AFKLMP Cargo said, “Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has years of experience with temperature-controlled transportation of pharmaceuticals and was the first airline group to be CEIV certified by IATA. The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines poses specific challenges in terms of volume, transportation requirements and security.”
“In order to be fully prepared for this we started a COVID-19 vaccine taskforce four months ago. This taskforce represents all the relevant Air France KLM Martinair Cargo departments. Our teams have been working on an extensive action plan. For example, at our Schiphol Pharma Hub, we opened up a 1,118 cubic metre climate-controlled storage facility a few months ago and we are building an additional 2,061 cubic metre additional cool room.”
“At our Charles de Gaulle Pharma Hub, a new climate-controlled storage area is about to be finished. The cargo carrier also introduced Hybrid and Advanced Passive Solutions that will be used to transport the vaccines, on top of existing full range of active containers. Along with many other initiatives, extra monitoring and intervention management have also been implemented.”
Since mid of March 2020, AFKLMP Cargo has made every effort to maintain its global airfreight network, helping to keep vital supply chains in place. This has always been essential, but even more so since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that healthcare facilities as well as private citizens have access to medicines, medical equipment, personal protective equipment and other critical products.
AFKLMP Cargo is currently operating services to more than 100 long-haul destinations. Approximately 6,000 cargo-only flights have been carried out by the airline group in recent months.