Finnair Races To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines

Developing an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is only part of the story.  Air cargo is considered the best mode of delivery.  But a cold chain is vital to ensure safe delivery.  Finnair is promoting Finnair Cargo as the best candidate for the Northern Hemisphere.  Emirates, as reported, is also in the running.

Finnair Claims Air Cargo is the Best Way to Distribute the Vaccine

Finnair Cargo Loading
Finnair Cargo Loading © Finnair

Fredrik Wildtgrube, Head of Global Sales at Finnair Cargo, points out the benefits of air cargo.  It is fastest mode of transportation.  It is also the safest.  Air Cargo terminals are subject to the same security safeguards as all other airports.  It is important to reduce the risk of damage and theft to the vaccine while it is in transit.  Air transfers are also very reliable.  Information on a cargo’s exact whereabouts is always available.  But, vaccine is a very sensitive cargo and could become ineffective if allowed to get warm.  Therefore, any contenders for the right to distribute the vaccine must prove they can keep the vaccine at the correct temperature

Finnair Cargo operates out of its COOL Nordic Cargo Hub at Helsinki–Vantaa Airport.  It is probably the most advanced air cargo terminal in Europe.  The solar-panelled roof usually covers fresh seafood, flying the short route from Norway to Japan.  A year after it opened, in 2018, it was awarded a CEIV GH certificate.  This could be Finnair Cargo’s trump card in its bid to transport the vaccine.

Finnair and the CEIV Pharma Certificate

Finnair Cargo Terminal
Finnair Cargo Terminal © Finnair

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) introduced the CEIV Pharma Certificate in 2014 to put pharmaceuticals back in the air. CEIV stands for Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics.  Holders of this certificate must uphold prescribed standards for the transportation of medicines.  Finnair was the first airline to receive this certificate. It would make sense to adopt it as the recognised standard for transporting COVID-19 vaccines to ensure international reliability.

Finnair’s Cold Chain for Efficient COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Finnair Cargo Terminal
Finnair Cargo Terminal © Finnair

Vaccines must be kept at the correct temperature to ensure they are viable.  This requires an unbroken cold chain during transit.  Finnair Cargo will store the vaccines in an area of the terminal dedicated to pharmaceutical goods. Sensors record and control the temperature.  Alarms sound at the slightest changes. Vaccines will arrive in a dedicated acceptance area, where staff will check incoming temperatures.  Aircraft are parked very close to the terminal.  So, tarmac time can be less than 30 minutes, one of the shortest in the world.  Staff at the Cool terminal have already undergone rigorous training.

IATA is right to claim that ‘Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry’.

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