The pandemic may have derailed aviation the world over, but the industry seems to now have a chance to return the virus the favour. Ever since hope sprang in the human breast that a vaccine may be soon among us, airlines have been making active preparations to deliver vials of life to humanity&mdashand resurrect their flagging business in the process.
The prospect of transporting the COVID-19 vaccine as a key member in the ensuing supply chain is making airlines scramble to incorporate cold storage units in their aircraft. If vaccination is indeed able to stem the outbreak, the industry would have avenged the record losses inflicted on it by the pandemic.
The Central government back home has also set into motion plans to establish a cold storage chain for its storage and transportation. Airlines, on their part, have apparently already made preparations for transporting the vaccine within the country and even abroad. The said cold storage will be set up both inside aircraft and at embarkation and disembarkation points. While Air India, which has earlier operated rescue flights amid the pandemic under its Vande Bharat Mission, has assured of steps accordingly, SpiceJet plans to provide logistical support under a special programme known as Spice Pharma Pro, as reported by Business Today.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will be the first COVID-19 vaccine to be administered, needs to be stored below -70C, while the Moderna jab needs a storage temperature of -20C. According to an IATA estimate, a 110-ton Boeing 747 would take about 8,000 flights to transport 14 billion doses (two for every person)&mdashmaking the task seem like a dream as of now. Katherine O&rsquoBrien, Head of Immunization with WHO, has already compared the task of coming up with the vaccine to only reaching the base camp of Mt Everest&mdashthat it would be delivering them that would actually be akin to climbing it.
The foreseen challenges include inadequate cargo capacity, problems with cold storage facilities (especially since anything less than ideal won&rsquot do in terms of minimum temperature), and others. International carriers like American Airlines and United Airlines have expressed confidence about their capabilities for the same with trial flights from Miami to South America, and also having transported pharmaceuticals for decades now. China&rsquos Sinovac is already being flown by Turkish Airlines to Brazil. Airlines with robust cargo-carrying capacities and major Gulf airlines are being expected to get in line to resurrect their severely impacted balance sheets by putting their connecting hubs.