Airlines join UNICEF programme for COVID-19 vaccine deliveries around the world

Korean Air, Etihad and Emirates set aside cargo space to support UN efforts

Korean Air Cargo_vaccine
(PHOTO: Korean Air)

Use this oneMultiple airlines have announced recently they are working with the UNICEF programme of the United Nations to deliver COVID-19 vaccines and medical equipment. Korean Air, Etihad, and Emirates are among those that joined the programme recently.

UNICEF is responsible for the global supply of vaccines as part of its effort for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The plan is to provide around 145 countries with vaccines in the first half of the year. UNICEF has selected 16 airlines in total to work with based on strict standards such as a global network, cargo capacity and experience shipping specialised cargo such as medical items.

Last September, Korean Air launched a task force to ensure that vaccines could be safely transported by the airline considering the unique requirements for temperature and storage. Some types require temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius, refrigeration below -20 degrees Celsius, or temperature maintenance between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

Emirates SkyCargo has also signed an agreement with UNICEF to prioritise the transport of COVID-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices, and other critical supplies to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement is the latest in a series of measures undertaken by the freight division of Emirates to support global communities in recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19.

“Every single day counts in the fight against COVID-19 and the sooner that communities can have access to COVID-19 vaccines, the sooner they can curb the spread of the virus and get back on their feet,” said Nabil Sultan, Emirates divisional senior vice president for cargo. “As a global player flying to more than 130 destinations, Emirates SkyCargo has been committed to the fight against the pandemic from the very early stages and we have rolled out a number of initiatives to expedite the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through Dubai, starting with our GDP certified dedicated airside hub. Through our partnership with UNICEF, we will be taking yet another step to prioritise and facilitate the rapid and secure movement of COVID-19 vaccines particularly to communities hard hit by the disease.”

In October 2020, Emirates SkyCargo announced that it was setting up the world’s largest EU GDP certified airside distribution hub dedicated for the storage and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. With over 15,000 sq metres of storage space available for vaccines, Emirates SkyCargo is able to store large quantities of the COVID-19 vaccine in Dubai, and fly in smaller quantities regularly to markets with limited cold chain infrastructure, reducing the need for large scale storage solutions.

An Etihad pilot getting vaccinated against COVID-19. (PHOTO: Etihad)

Etihad Cargo, the cargo and logistics arm of Etihad Aviation Group, said it has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNICEF to support its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative. Under the MoU, Etihad Cargo will aid the worldwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices, and other critical supplies to respond to the pandemic, managing all requirements through its dedicated COVID-19 Workforce. The UAE’s national carrier’s initial commitment will centre on helping maintain UNICEF’s regular immunisation programmes for the world’s most vulnerable children.

“Etihad Cargo had no hesitation in supporting UNICEF’s far-reaching humanitarian initiative to aid children most at risk worldwide,” explained Martin Drew, senior vice president for sales and cargo at Etihad Aviation Group. “This partnership is in line with Etihad Aviation Group’s commitment to improve the wellbeing of people everywhere and underpins Abu Dhabi’s international role in providing humanitarian aid to build a safer world.”

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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