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Airlines Trying To Prepare For Distribution Of Ultra-Cold Covid-19 Vaccine

Airlines Trying To Prepare For Distribution Of Ultra-Cold Covid-19 Vaccine
Ultra-cold shipping and storage facilities are being hastily prepared by airlines for transportation of Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which need very low temperatures for keeping them safe. Covid-19 vaccines from these two drug makers are likely to be the first to be available for inoculation.
Only 15 per cent of airline and logistics industry participants were confident that they were ready to transport goods near the minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94°F) required by the Pfizer Inc vaccine, found a survey conducted by an air cargo association and a drug shippers' group. However about 60 per cent of the participants were ready to meet the temperature requirements for Moderna Inc's vaccine that requires a temperature of -20°C.
For transportation of pharmaceutical products, containers with cooling materials such as dry ice are typically used by airlines. However some do not have temperature controls which can make the products being transported liable to damages because of unforeseen events such as flight delays.
Various options that range from use of a large plug-in freezer that can cost about as much as a small car to a multi-layered canister which make use of liquid nitrogen, are being considered by airlines for shipping of the vaccines that needs to stored at extremely low temperatures,.
The shares of cold container specialists such as Cryoport Inc and Germany-based va-Q-tec have more than doubled in recent months because of the potential demand for such high-end packaging.
"With direct contracts with five temperature-controlled container manufacturers, Korean Air has secured sufficient quantities of containers. For now, we are in the process of signing contracts with other container manufacturers," a Korean Air spokesperson said.
A test run with one of the drug makers is set to be conducted by Air France-KLM, the airline said though the company did not say which drug maker. In this trial run, dummy samples will be shipped by the airlines at ultra-low temperatures most likely through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.
Air France-KLM special cargo manager Béatrice Delpuech said that the trial run will be made using boxes containing as many as 5,000 doses each - all of which will be cooled by dry ice. Larger ultra-cold containers rented from va-Q-tec could be used in later shipments.
"They need to validate the entire logistics chain from end to end, including the air freight segment," Delpuech said. "We have a dedicated task force examining every step of the process with all our teams, to make sure there are no hitches anywhere."
However only a limited amount of dry ice - frozen carbon dioxide can be carried by airlines because it tr4ansforms into gaseous form over time which displaces the breathable air of cabins which is another of the difficulties of transportation of vaccine in airplanes.
According to a DHL white paper on vaccine transport, a maximum of around 1 tonne of dry ice in refrigerated and insulated containers cab be carried by all wide-body planes at a time.
"Depending on the type of aircraft, there are usually not more than a few containers on board at the same time," said Joachim von Winning, chief executive of Air Cargo Community Frankfurt.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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