© Weerapat Wattanapichayakul

In preparation for global vaccine delivery, IATA has launched ONE Source, an online platform to match shipping needs with infrastructure capabilities and service providers.

The platform, which will independently verify information, will list the latest operational information on airlines, airports, handling facilities, forwarders, shippers and truckers and take into account security and risk analysis data. The API platform will be free for all service providers.

“ONE Source will give complete visibility of the capabilities and facilities across the supply chain,” said Glyn Hughes, head of IATA Cargo.

He pointed out the enormity of the vaccine challenge, which, with just a single dose vaccine for 7.8bn people, would amount to 8,000 747 flights.

But while much of the focus so far has been on available airline capacity, Mr Hughes said facilities also had to be in place.

“Once a vaccine has been produced, it will need to be manufactured around the world and distributed safely. There will need to be a focus on Africa, Asia and Latin America, where there are few facilities to manufacture.”

Among the numerous challenges were border processes, flight permits and trained, adequate staff numbers at import and export locations, he explained.

“To maintain supply chain integrity and temperature control, from the manufacturing site for the entire journey, will require all parties to work together,” he said.

IATA is already “working across many fronts”, he said, including with the World Food Programme and other UN agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, airlines and handlers.

“The biggest challenge will be the final mile, and that’s where the greatest focus is. We already have well-established procedures in the industry, but we will need to scale up – and they don’t cover everywhere.

“In Africa for example, there are few passenger services and no real methods of distribution – it’s too large, with too many borders, and you can’t use road or ocean. It will need planning with military precision. One way would be to set up cool facilities at staging points throughout the continent.

“Aid agencies have incredible expertise in this. We would then work as an industry to deploy their plans.”

Currently, vaccine distribution is ordered in advance and amounts to a small number of meticulously planned shipments.

“We know the procedures work, but we need to scale them up,” Mr Hughes said.

ONE Source would facilitate the planning and distribution process: “It’s very comprehensive and we are working with all regions to do this as quickly as possible.”

While emphasising the enormity of the challenge, Mr Hughes said Covid vaccine distribution would likely be phased.

Meanwhile, numerous logistics companies, no doubt scenting strong revenue, have been busy putting their pharma credentials into the public eye. The latest to do so is Kuehne + Nagel, which today announced  it had opened airside pharma and healthcare hubs in Brussels and Johannesburg, with direct tarmac access and dedicated areas for all temperature ranges.

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