Aviation’s Biggest Challenge Ever: COVID-19 Vaccines Distribution

Distribution of Vaccine

The past few months have been a perfect storm scenario for the Aviation Industry. And now the Aviation is gearing up to play a key role in providing ground breaking vaccines to all destinations safely in the fight of COVID-19.

Developing a vaccine is just half a problem, rather delivering is pretty much like the elephant in the room.This is going to be the most astonishing single logistical complex challenge earmarked ever to deliver the vaccines safely at the final destination.

The Role of Aviation

Aviation will have a significant role in this global challenge,After all, there is not a single nation on earth that is unaffected by the COVID-19-19.

Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning. And the time for that is now

International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s chief executive Alexandre de Juniac

Infact all airlines are preparing well for the rollout of the highly-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.Even though Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines have proved 94.5% efficacy​​​​​​​, countries have started ordering these vaccines.

As of today,it is said that the delivery of vaccines will be a mass distribution plan starting December 2020 which is expected to reach its peak by April-June 2021.

Airports across the globe must begin to assess how they might be part of this enormous distribution exercise. In developing countries security will be the key aspect of handling the distribution and transportation of the vaccine across the country. Apart from security,temperatures requirements for transporting the vaccines will be another concern.


Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft! – International Air Transport Association (IATA) 

IATA estimates that the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 freighters will be required for the airlift, which will take up to two years to supply some 5-10 billion doses of vaccine. The world is now turning the table since we head the approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the UK and it’s said to be rolled out by next week.

It is said that 40 million dosages, have been ordered by the UK and they are getting  prepared to immunize more than 20 million people in the upcoming months. The challenge now is that how far the airlines are prepared for this plethora delivery. The aviation definitely  is stepping up to the plate, making sure they deliver at the fastest pace as possible.

The capacity challenge will be a major concern every airline will be contributing to the effort to handle the distribution of  vaccines.


This will be the largest and most complex logistical exercise ever, The world is counting on us  – International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Transporting vaccines are way more complex than anyone can imagine,because the sensitivity of the vaccines might provide an additional challenge to airlines and would require an extra layer of cooperation. Not all planes are suitable for delivering vaccines as they need a typical temperature range of between 2 and 8C for transporting drugs.

Some vaccines may require freezing temperatures and even require dry ice to safely transport it to distribution centers which would exclude more aircraft.

Dry ice is classified as a dangerous good in aviation as it sublimates from a solid to gaseous carbon dioxide,but airlines have request exemptions to these limits in order to  transport more doses around the globe.The Airports need to have peculiar infrastructures in place for transporting vaccines and cold chain storage in order to maintain the vaccines at the required temperature.

For example:-  American Airlines began conducting trial flights of transporting the vaccine from its Miami International Airport (MIA) hub to South America in mid-November 2020.

United Airlines also had done the same, as it started operating a special charter flight from Brussels, Belgium to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to ship the Pfizer vaccine before its approval in order to distribute it more quickly, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Another example could be that Emirates airline established its own Good Distribution Practice (GDP) cargo hub, primarily focused on delivering and re-distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in Dubai.

Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal in Dubai is set to serve as a dedicated anchor hub for cold chain storage and distribution of the vaccine as it is connecting to all major destinations across the globe.


“Setting up a dedicated airside hub for COVID-19 vaccines is a keystone project harnessing our network, reach and competencies to positively impact the lives of people around the world.”- HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive. 

Priorities for preparing facilities for the distribution of vaccines as per IATA  include:

  • Availability of temperature-controlled facilities and equipment – maximizing the use or re-purposing of existing infrastructure and minimizing temporary builds
  • Availability of staff trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines
  • Robust monitoring capabilities to ensure the integrity of the vaccines is maintained

Final Thoughts

The whole aviation industry undoubtedly will play a significant role in the world’s attempt to curb the COVID-19 virus and to meet the challenge of worldwide distribution.Consequently the airlines have to realize the gigantic logistical challenges in front of them, to distribute to every corner of the planet, for the distribution to almost eight billion people worldwide with quality, reliability and dexterity.

The  transportation of the vaccine will take the entire aviation industry to a whole new level. The big potential players in the Middle East could also play an important role in this mammoth project, because of the state of the art infrastructure at their hub airports and their connectivity through all destinations in the world.

Rozina Musthafa

Author: Rozina Musthafa

Being a travel Buff and passion for the written word i have spent all my years in the sphere of travel and tourism.I always had a never-ending love affair with reading and writing about travel . I am an avid reader who is constantly on the hunt for new and upcoming travel news. Writing for travel magazines to travel blogs, I can never get enough to quench my thirst.

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