The equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s will be needed for shipping a coronavirus vaccine around the world, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has said.
“Safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines for all 7.8 billion people on the planet 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,” said Iata’s chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.
There is no Covid-19 vaccine yet, but Iata is already working with airlines, airports, global health bodies and drug firms on a global airlift plan.
The distribution programme assumes only one dose per person is needed.
About 140 vaccines are in early development, and around two dozen are now being tested on people in clinical trials.
While airlines have been shifting their focus on delivering cargo during the severe downturn in passenger flights, shipping vaccines is far more complex.
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 frozen temperatures which would exclude more aircraft.
Along with making sure they are handled and transported at controlled temperatures, security is another issue.
“Vaccines will be highly valuable commodities. Arrangements must be in place to keep ensuring that shipments remain secure from tampering and theft,” added IATA.