Airlines help vaccine airlift

Photo: UNICEF NEPAL / L P Ngakhusi

In a landmark initiative, the world’s 10 leading airlines have joined UNICEF in its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to the airlift of Covid-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices and other critical supplies to respond to the pandemic.

The Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative will also be deployed to deliver the first batch of COVAX funded vaccines to Nepal this month. UNICEF is working with the supplier, airlines, and the Ministry of Health and Population to finalise the procurement and delivery to Nepal of 2.2 million doses of Covishield vaccines from India, and to ensure cold chain safety and rapid vaccine distribution to vaccination sites across the country.

The Initiative will also act as a global logistics preparedness mechanism for other humanitarian and health crises over the longer term.

“Delivery of these life-saving vaccines is a monumental and complex undertaking, considering the sheer volumes that need to be transported, the cold chain requirements, the number of expected deliveries and the diversity of routes” said Etleva Kadilli of UNICEF’s  Supply Division in Copenhagen.“We are grateful to these airlines for joining forces to support the roll-out of vaccines.”

The UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative brings together airlines serving over 100 countries in support of the COVAX Facility – the global effort aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Based on the COVAX Facility’s indicative distribution and first round allocation plan, 145 countries will receive doses to immunise around 3% of their population, on average, starting in the first half of 2021.

In addition to prioritising shipments of these life-saving supplies, the airlines will take measures such as temperature control and security, while also adding freight capacity to routes where needed. Their commitments are critical to the timely and secure delivery of vaccines and critical supplies.

Safe, timely and efficient transportation of life-saving supplies is critical to supporting access to essential services for children and families. COVAX deliveries and the subsequent vaccination of frontline workers will support health and social care systems to safely resume these critical services.

Nepal received its first 1 million doses of Covishield as a gift from India, and another 1 million that was procured directly from the Serum Institute of India was air freighted to Kathmandu on Sunday. The 2.2 million doses under the COVAX initiative will arrive later this month.

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