How will the 7.8 billion coronavirus vaccine be transported?

Since the onset of the emergency due to the virus threatening human health, when COVID-19 was accepted as an epidemic and pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO / WHO), it has been questioned how to safely and efficiently transport medical supplies by air [2].

For this purpose, with the general efforts of the Ministry of Transport in the Federal USA, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) established the FAA COVID-19 Vaccine Air Transport Team in October 2020 to specifically work on this issue for the fast and safe transportation of vaccines [4]. US government agencies and other aviation stakeholders have been proactively involved in this work [2].

Explaining that they found the vaccine, the German company Pfizer BioNtech announced that the mRNA vaccine they developed should be carried at -70 degrees Celsius, and the whole world became curious about how these vaccines would be transported, stored and distributed at this temperature. TTT Global Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr Akın Arslan says that 16 thousand jumbo jets are required for this vaccine to be delivered to 7.8 billion people in the world in 2 doses [1].

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Negotiations are initiated with FedEX, DHL and UPS for the transportation of vaccines, and it is predicted that only these companies will be able to transport u [2]. Will CMA CGM, which has just decided to enter airline transportation, be able to take its place in this process? We will watch and see.

While the logistics world questions and researches how this process to be carried by cold chain at -70 degrees Celsius, on the one hand, Akın stated that BioNTech company planned special transport boxes in the size of a suitcase with temperature control: “One box will carry between thousand and 5 thousand doses and – It will be able to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for up to 10 days. Each of these boxes will contain 975 bottles containing 5 doses of vaccine and dry ice, in total, a maximum of 4,875 doses of vaccine is planned.

It is aimed to transport up to 20 trucks of vaccine from one distribution facility to airports per day, with delivery to any part of the world in maximum 3 days. The basic expectation is to transfer with at least 20 cargo planes a day. Also on the agenda are GPS systems embedded in boxes to keep the -70 cold chain, warn in case the cold chain will be in danger, and smart tags that will change color when the temperature value falls below -70 in vaccine bottles. ” Saying “AT LEAST 15-20 PERCENT OF THE VACCINES WILL BE LOSE.” He adds the sentence to the end of his speech [1].

As it is known, these vaccines cannot be used in the color changes that may occur during the storage and transportation of medical supplies, especially in the warehouses established for the protection of the vaccines, which are delivered by humanitarian aid organizations to countries struggling with the epidemic. As stated by Mr Akın and with the anticipation that some products and devices may have been damaged due to the color change placed on them, the products that are re-tested and controlled may be destroyed. For this reason, it is best to use this method in the control of vaccines. Otherwise, we know that hundreds of people, especially children, are either paralyzed or lost their lives due to the use of uncontrolled vaccines in undeveloped countries.

Airbus A350, one of the largest cargo aircraft in the world, can carry a maximum of 2 million doses of mRNA vaccine at a time. It can carry 15 million from a Rotavirus vaccine that can be transported under more favorable conditions. 16 thousand Boeing 747 jumbo jets must be made to carry the 2 doses of vaccine needed by 7.8 billion people to the first level. Even the US FedEx, which owns the world’s largest air cargo fleet, has 600 cargo planes. While making all these projections, we stated that in case the cold chain breaks or breaks despite all kinds of precautions, at least 15-20 percent of the vaccines to be transferred will be wasted.

According to the data of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 15 thousand cargo planes need to be allocated to this business in order to deliver 10 billion doses of vaccine to the world in the next 2 years. It looks like a new logistics economy will emerge. Countries will need to establish an ultra-refrigerated infrastructure that can protect at least 1/3 of the vaccines they order at -70 degrees Celsius at various storage levels, without disrupting the cold chain. One of the issues that make this mandatory is the necessity of applying two doses at 3-week intervals in order for the vaccine to have the maximum effect, and the start of the expiration date of 5 days once broken, and no return. “

As the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) allows emergency use of the coronavirus vaccine, a major logistical challenge arises. In the process of transporting vaccines around the world, it is not only the responsibility of cargo transport companies such as FedEx and UPS, but also a complex and serious task that should support and involve passenger transport companies. World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Vaccines and Biology Department Dr. Kate O’Brien says: “Developing and licensing vaccines is like setting up a base camp at the bottom of Everest. And actually reaching the top – it’s the delivery part.” In other words, O’Brien says it’s relatively easy to develop COVID-19 vaccines in record time, but when it comes to moving and distributing these vaccines, “Every country will have a struggle on how to get it done quickly.”

Well! What are the “Obstacles” that we may encounter in this process?:

– Low production capacity [3].

– Insufficient cold storage: Until now, vaccines could be stored between 2 and 8 degrees. The warehouses and distribution network that can meet these conditions are located in developed countries. Thanks to the initiatives of UNICEF and the Gates Foundation and the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), many less developed countries such as South Asia and African countries also have such warehouses. The problem here is that many of the Covid-19 vaccine candidates need a temperature much below minus 8 degrees. For example; Explaining that it has achieved great success in vaccination studies, the American company Moderna underlines that this temperature is -20 for the vaccine and -70 for BioNtech [3].

– Vaccination time/time, insufficient staff, resistance to vaccination… [3]

– Color change in vaccines… Can these vaccines be used? What are the consequences of its use?

– Possible exposure of the cargo to carbon dioxide! Monitoring carbon dioxide gas levels on the aircraft, among other measures, to protect pilots and ramp personnel who will enter the belly/fuselage of the aircraft to unload without exposure [2]!

– Handling times and processes… He said that Pfizer has changed the cargo handling process to quickly retrieve special freezer containers from aircraft [2].

– Transportation, transportation to people in developing and/or underdeveloped countries… Will it be transported?

– Not a single vaccination in 130 countries, a 40% increase in coronavirus deaths in Africa in the last month …

– Need for large amounts of dry ice and its risks in air transport [2]!

– Continue to follow current requirements for lithium battery-powered data loggers/trackers that can accompany vaccine shipments (air carriers wishing to transport dangerous goods such as dry ice or lithium batteries must indicate on their operating certificates that they will transport dangerous goods and have appropriate procedures for this.) [2].

– Implementation of current legal processes and requirements.

– Critical personnel need and supply; To follow and collect information and developments in air transport, and to explore potential problems and results as they emerge.

– Risk management, continuous updating, airworthiness… [4]

– Effective communication and timely information sharing [4].

– Capacity, quantity that can be carried.

– Airport operations, ground services …

– Vaccines produced in America can be used in this continent.

– Vaccines produced in Germany will be used in European countries.

If the vaccine can be produced in sufficient quantities, and its delivery/distribution is possible, Europe will be able to become the vaccine.

Stay healthy and safe in the hope of being able to get rid of this pandemic environment, which has been in for a long time, as soon as possible. Don’t forget about 2M1H.


  1. https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/78-milyar-asi-nasil-tasinacak-1792438
  2. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/11/945670606/transporting-and-distributing-vaccines-will-be-unprecedented-logistical-operatio
  3. https://tr.euronews.com/2020/12/01/covid-19-as-lar-dunyaya-nas-l-dag-t-lacak-as-n-n-onundeki-engeller-neler
  4. https://www.faa.gov/coronavirus/vaccine_transport

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