|Vol. 19 No. 67||
Tuesday October 13, 2020
Air Cargo & Vaccine Distribution
Throughout modern history in general, and this pandemic crisis in particular, air cargo has played a vital role in the delivery of critical supplies and equipment on a global basis. As the pharmaceutical industry dedicates its resources to the creation of an effective vaccine, one of the greatest challenges will be the design and implementation of an efficient distribution system that will address the demanding logistical requirements. Airports and their partners will be critical elements in the planning and operations.
There are obvious variables that must be addressed. The originating distribution points still need to be determined - the success of the pharma companies in developing an approved vaccine, and their locations, will be the deciding factors. However, the ultimate distribution systems and delivery points will be theoretically predicated upon a number of measurable and weighted criteria which could include (but not be limited to) in an order to be determined:
• Population concentration
• Regional infection rates
• Concentration of specific societal and industry elements
• Essential workers and businesses
• Schools and educational facilities
• Concentration of population with high pre-morbidity
• Local distribution operational capacity
• Regional distribution facilities and infrastructure
At this point in time, the primary distribution targets and relevant networks should have been determined with the priorities being the remaining key variable issue. Assuming that is the case, then the mechanisms should be in place to ensure that the latter criteria, which are directly relevant to airports and their partners, are in motion. When a vaccine is fully confirmed as viable, demand will be enormous. In all probability, assuming the production of the vaccine is ramped up to maximum levels, the manufacturing facility (or facilities) will create extremely high volumes of the product (and demand for related equipment) which will stress unprepared distribution facilities and infrastructure.
There are questions to be addressed including who will be responsible for each aspect of the project? Have the main distribution points been identified? Were critical players in the logistics chain involved in the process? Also, is the transportation infrastructure prepared? The challenges that will be faced could be significant - particularly if there are multiple States and jurisdictions in a single targeted region. Putting aside the administrative issues for a moment, there are a number of primary considerations which will vary based on the targeted regions.
• The establishment of regional control and communications centers and the creation of a planned distribution network. This will be a vital link in the chain.
• Once distribution has begun, shippers, airports, carriers, forwarders, customs brokers, trucking companies, federal and local agencies, local distribution centers, and the ultimate sites for vaccine administration must work closely together in real time.
• The availability of federal staff to ensure inspection and clearance of shipments on a timely basis.
• The capacity of the aircraft apron to accommodate inbound and outbound freighters and the availability of necessary handling equipment
• Possible trucking access directly to the aircraft apron
• The availability of staff to coordinate and prioritize apron movements
• The availability of climate-controlled facilities for inbound and outbound shipments
• Designation of high-speed throughput or bypass lanes in the air cargo facility.
• Trucks with climate-control capacity
• Designated and prepared landside consolidation and distribution facilities
• Designated and prepared facilities for the administration of the vaccine
• Establishment of controls for landside access and queuing
• Creation of security protocols for the transport and storage of the vaccine
As in so many of the challenges we face, timing is critical – tomorrow will be pushing the envelope. The logistics of the distribution operation are daunting – but manageable. Success will depend on comprehensive and early planning, close and on-going communication, and perhaps most importantly, management that understands the issues and commits 100% to implementation.
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