KENYA – Astral Aviation, Ethiopian Airlines are among the 14 airlines that have 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 other airlines that are part of this initiative include Airbridge Cargo, Air France/KLM, Emirates SkyCargo, Brussels Airlines, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, IAG Cargo, Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
In January, Astral welcomed its first B767-200F from Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and expects to operate charters for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The aircraft has 42 tonnes payload and 350 cubic metres volume.
“We are truly honoured to be selected by UNICEF to participate in the Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, based on our track-record in performing humanitarian flights within Africa and the Middle East during the past twenty years. We will be placing our entire fleet of B747F, B767F, B727F, DC9F, CRJ-200, Fokker 50, and Fokker 27 on high priority, which is critical to the timely and secure delivery of vaccines and critical supplies, as we consider it our moral-obligation to ensure that no person in Africa is left-behind due to lack of aircraft capacity,” stated Astral Aviation’s CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia.
In the first week of February, Emirates SkyCargo delivered 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from India to South Africa via Dubai.
Under UNICEF’s Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, Emirates and other airlines will prioritise transport and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines and related supplies.
This initiative is in support of the COVAX facility for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and will also act as a global logistics preparedness mechanism for other humanitarian and health crises over the longer term.
“Astral’s Pharma Product combined with the expertise of its Pharma team provides a reliable and efficient service for temperature sensitive products across the network, which includes safe re-packing and re-icing service which will enhance the cool-chain value of vaccines for onward distribution within Africa”Michael Mutahi – Chief Operations Officer, Astral Aviation
The UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative brings together the airlines covering routes to over 100 countries, in support of the COVAX Facility – the global effort aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Based on the COVAX Facility’s indicative distribution and first round allocation plan, 145 countries will receive doses to immunise around three percent of their population, on average, starting in the first half of 2021, subject to all requirements being met and final allocation plans.
“Delivery of these life-saving vaccines is a monumental and complex undertaking, considering the sheer volumes that need to be transported, the cold chain requirements, the number of expected deliveries and the diversity of routes,” said Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF Supply Division.
According to UNICEF, in addition to prioritising shipments of these life-saving supplies, the airlines will take measures such as temperature control and security, while also adding freight capacity to routes where needed. Their commitments are critical to the timely and secure delivery of vaccines and critical supplies.
“Astral’s Pharma Product combined with the expertise of its Pharma team provides a reliable and efficient service for temperature sensitive products across the network, which includes safe re-packing and re-icing service which will enhance the cool-chain value of vaccines for onward distribution within Africa,” according to Michael Mutahi, chief operations officer of Astral Aviation.
In November 2020, Astral has announced that it is ready to support the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines across its scheduled network of 15 destinations within Africa and a further 50 destinations available on charters.
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