Vaccine flies on wings of HOPE

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The HOPE Consortium is kickstarting the vaccination effort in Africa with a delivery of large freezers that will be used to store the vaccine to 21 countries.

Working in conjunction with the UNICEF aid agency and COVAX, the global collaboration that aims to ensure access for all to the vaccine – the first HOPE-facilitated flight from China to Belgium touched down in Liege Airport on 7 October carrying 65 ultra-cold chain freezers for vaccine storage, 60,000 syringes and 1,300 safety boxes. This equipment will now be transported onwards to 21 African countries, from Burkina Faso to Sudan, Zambia to São Tomé and Príncipe.

Many are difficult to reach locations, particularly with air travel disruption and the nature of the goods being delivered. Scaling up ultra-cold chain capacity is especially important as African countries prepare to receive the  vaccines, which require storage at – 70 degrees Celsius.

The ultra-cold freezers are 2.5 metres high and 1 metre long, too large to transport as bellyhold  on regular passenger flights, so all-cargo planes are the only option. 

Chief of transport at UNICEF supply division, Jean-Cedric Meeus, said: “In addition to the large size, we also faced the challenge of reducing the amount of gas within the ultra-cold freezers to make them suitable to ship by air. We worked with the manufacturer to reduce the gas levels and re-gas the freezers at destination. These are the minute but critical details that determine what, when and how we can ship, and importantly, the cost of shipping in a highly constrained market.”

However, with the world shipping industry in turmoil due to lack of capacity, reduced flights, congested ports and soaring freight costs, the competition for air and sea cargo is at an all-time high.

The HOPE Consortium is a public-private partnership consisting of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Ports, Etihad Cargo, Rafed, Maqta Gateway and SkyCell, which provides Covid-19 vaccine storage and delivery services at its hub in Abu Dhabi. It provides transport, storage, handling, sourcing, and global distribution services (via its collaboration with leading logistical companies), offering UNICEF and COVAX additional logistics capacity during a time of great need.

Jean-Cedric Meeus, added:  “In my 21 years working for UNICEF, I have never seen the kind of pressure on shipping and transport industries that we are experiencing right now. To combat the pandemic, we are moving large volumes of bulky equipment, at a time when cargo space is at a premium. This contribution from UAE and the HOPE Consortium comes at a crucial time,” said

((Pix – HOPE))

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