UNICEF is working with major global airlines and freight providers to step up efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to over 92 countries around the world as soon as vaccines become available.
To kickstart preparations, UNICEF together with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), briefed major global airlines last week on the expected capacity requirements and discussed ways to transport close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. This is in addition to the 1 billion syringes that need to be transported by sea-freight.
This virtual meeting comes close on the heels of the first-ever logistics event held virtually by UNICEF to discuss the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines. The landmark discussion brought together more than 350 logistics partners, including air freight operators, shipping lines and global logistics associations.
“As work continues to develop COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF is stepping-up efforts with airlines, freight operators, shipping lines and other logistics associations to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible,” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division. “This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation. We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect front line workers around the globe. By protecting these workers, we are ultimately protecting the millions of children who depend on their critical services.”
In the coming weeks, UNICEF is also assessing existing transport capacity to identify gaps and future requirements. The procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated to be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken. UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the COVAX Facility. In collaboration with PAHO, UNICEF will coordinate the purchase and delivery for 92 low- and lower middle-income economies as quickly and securely as possible.
These efforts build on UNICEF’s longstanding efforts with the logistics industry to transport supplies around the world despite restrictions related to the pandemic. Since January, UNICEF has delivered more than US$190 million worth of COVID-19 supplies such as masks, gowns, oxygen concentrators and diagnostic test kits in support of countries as they respond to the pandemic.
As the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF normally procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. This unparalleled expertise includes the coordination of thousands of shipments with various cold chain requirements, making UNICEF an expert in supply chain management of temperature-controlled products, which is especially needed during this historic undertaking. To minimise disruptions to routine immunization programmes due to the operations related to the COVID-19 vaccines and syringes, UNICEF and partners will continue to coordinate closely with logistics operators for timely delivery around the world.
“The support of governments, partners and the private sector will be paramount to transport vaccines for deadly diseases such as measles, diphtheria and tetanus, as well as for COVID-19, as efficiently as possible,” Kadilli said.
Last month, UNICEF began a process to stockpile more than 1 billion syringes by 2021 to guarantee initial supply and pre-position in advance of COVID-19 vaccines.