United Airlines have allegedly started to airlift Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines to various destinations around the world. Other airlines are also preparing to begin flying vaccines to designated spots once the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signs off on in. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lends its support to the development, saying it is crucial to the safety of lives during the surging incidents of coronavirus infections around the world.
With the reported first air shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday, the FAA said it is important to provide logistics support and efficient planning to “ensure safe, expeditious, and efficient transportation of vaccines.” United Airlines is poised to fly chartered airplanes between Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport as well as other designated airports before onward delivery to targeted communities.
Part of the logistics for vaccine transportation includes expanded storage capacity since the drugs require dry ice to be transported and stored. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine requires massive amounts of dry ice to remain stable at negative 75 degrees Celsius, and other vaccines from other manufacturers require almost the same amount of dry ice to store and transport in air cargo.
The FAA said they will provide the requisite support for air carriers and airports on the safe movement of the vaccines across airports. Pfizer said their vaccines would be transported in suitcase frozen storage in cargo planes as well as trucks for community distribution. United Airlines said the FAA has allowed them to airlift five times the required amount of dry ice permitted on board to store the vaccines during transit.
“In addition to mitigating safety risks related to the safe transport of vaccines, the FAA is ensuring around-the-clock air traffic services to keep air cargo moving and prioritizing flights carrying cargo, such as vaccines, and personnel critical to the nation’s response to and recovery from Covid-19,” the FAA disclosed.
Andrew Peterson, assistant professor of philosophy at George Mason University, said that apart from the massive amount of dry ice needed to store the vaccines and the logistics of distributing them across various countries and communities, officials must also guard against theft since thieves would after the drugs.
“Beyond the challenge of physically transporting the vaccine by air and land to distribution centers across America and internationally, there are the additional obstacles of keeping the vaccine at sub-zero temperatures and monitoring deliveries for theft,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the CDC has set a meeting for Tuesday where officials will meet with the FDA and other stakeholders to discuss those brackets of people who should get vaccinated first once the COVID-19 drugs get delivered to their communities.