After the first anniversary of COVID-19, we can say we are in one of the most anticipated phases of the process, the vaccination phase. Imagine the logistics pharmaceuticals, governments, and transportation companies have to arrange to guarantee the safe arrival of the doses to each of the countries worldwide. This is an example of how important it is that all parties align and work as a team.
To respond to COVID-19 effectively, ICAO and IATA have released reports indicating which operational considerations for vaccination transporters’ have to be taken into account to guarantee a smooth process between the parties. From the points mentioned in the research, we will evaluate which airline KPIs and measures are possible to implement to control the vaccine distribution better and thereby help to fight COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine: Ensuring an efficient distribution is the top priority for any airline
Let’s start with some of the most essential yet general KPIs, airline should monitor in terms of COVID-19 vaccine logistics.
- Authorized permissions and custom documentation clearance. Enabling the tracking of daily required permissions according to their status (approved vs. open).
- Internal distribution set up ready for once the vaccines have arrived in National territory. In this case, it is necessary to identify how many vaccines will remain in the current location, how many will be transported to different cities and to which cities, and the transport modality (air or land). Each transport should be assigned a scheduled departure and arrival time to track de delivery on-time performance in each domestic destination.
- Track the amount expected on a specific order vs. the amount delivered. What percentage of the requested number of vaccines was delivered to understand if the day’s order arrived complete.
- The following vaccine delivery amount The total amount of vaccines received vs. the total required amount for the population.
- The deliveries per day to define which were the higher delivery vs. the lower delivery peaks.
- Appropriate storage conditions in each of the locations and, of course, a vaccination plan for the population.
It’s not all about airlines! In terms of COVID-19, airports should have a close eye on new KPIs, too!
Airports working hand-in-hand with governments must prepare to extend or adjust the regular operation to provide the vaccine transporters’ necessary slots. This includes:
- Landing permit operations: By this, they require to track how many additional flights to land or depart from the specific airport.
- Curfews: Some airports have defined curfews regulating their operations hours. However, in this case, curfew extensions seem reasonable to fulfil the availability required. Therefore, airports can identify how many additional hours the airport is running outside its regular operating times. Proper planning in this context helps the airports to ensure the availability of members, permissions, and suppliers to execute an adequate turnaround process.
As the vaccinations require specific transport and temperature conditions, a long flight can alter the product conditions. Because of these alterations, airports should provide priority landing for aircraft transporting the vaccine. A relevant measure is the reasons for priority landings. The airports need to track how many flights were provided with a priority landing and identify the priority authorization reasons. For example, vaccination carrier, technical emergency, passenger emergency, a flight diversion, or fuel alert. These reasons will provide a better overview of the airport’s daily operation.
Additional KPIs airlines should monitor in terms of transporting COVID-19 vaccine
Now talking more into detail about the transportation logistics and preparations, we will evaluate the different conditions airline carriers have had to transport the vaccines safely and measures that influence a successful operation.
The Pharma and medical supplies usually have special transport conditions. Here are a few examples:
- Limited delivery times (due to the product’s short-life cycle)
- Particular temperature environments
- Packaging design to not perish or get damaged during the transportation process.
The reports indicate the COVID-19 vaccination requires a temperature approximately minus 70°C, according to Airbus. Transporting airlines use dry ice, composed of frozen carbon dioxide, to maintain the required temperature vaccinations. Since the dry ice requires special handling, there are some aspects airlines need to take into account.
- Staff training: Due to the high distirbution numbers of vaccines globally, airlines have to use all their resources to facilitate the deliveries to the different countries. Additionally, the special conditions for transporting the vaccinations require specific staff training to prepare the cargo accordingly.
- Staff availability: The availability of staff with the right skills is crucial in the entire process. Therefore, airlines must track the number of staff:
- …for handling the vaccinations both ground and onboard
- …with on-going training for both ground and onboard
- …with scheduled training for both ground and onboard
- Damages define compromised items by damages either in the product itself or the packaging that can affect the content’s safety. When identifying the number of damaged items, it is crucial to separate the ones damaged previously to transportation and those damaged within the transportation process. This will help identify necessary cargo load improvements and prepare or notify the pharma company about damaged vaccine lots or packages.
- Weight and Balance: According to the FAA, the aircraft’s weight and balance can be affected by the dry ice conditions during the flight time. The FAA performs some tests to determine the mass-loss rate (pounds/hour), taking into account factors such as sea level vs. altitude and Packaging: Vaccine Thermal Containers vs. Generic Boxes. Additionally, the percentage of weight loss/ hour is also evaluated, known as sublimation rate, facilitating the planning for the aircraft’s weight and balance.
- CO2 Levels: One last factor I would like to mention in this case is that, as dry ice is frozen CO2, the control of CO2 levels is essential.
Summary & further reading
Summarized, these are just a few examples of considerations and measures that need to be controlled and tracked for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine. I hope it provides a first overview and value to you. If you want to dive into even more details here are some links:
- The Time to Prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine Transport is Now. Corporate Communications. September 9, 2020.
- Dry Ice Tests to Support Safe Shipment of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines: Preliminary Results. Federal Aviation Administration, January 2021
- Airbus supports global effort for safe COVID-19 vaccine transportation. Readying relief for world’s population. December 18, 2020.