Korean Air starts preparing to ship Covid-19 vaccines

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Korean Air starts preparing to ship Covid-19 vaccines

A container capable of temperature control is being loaded on a Korean Air fleet. [KOREAN AIR]

A container capable of temperature control is being loaded on a Korean Air fleet. [KOREAN AIR]

Struggling through an unprecedented drop in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Korean Air has set its sights on one potential new business area that wouldn’t have existed without the pandemic: Vaccine transportation.
Under its cargo business unit, the country’s largest carrier recently established a task force dedicated to examining and preparing equipment for vaccine transportation.
The new team will study the required temperature for each vaccine, check the necessary equipment needed to maintain that environment inside the plane and make purchase decisions if necessary. Storage spaces at departure and landing points will be examined and expanded as well.
Preparing for training staff and establishing a monitoring system for safety and security during vaccine transportation are also tasks allocated to the task force.
Korean Air explained that the move is a pre-emptive one as vaccine cargo demand will inevitably grow as soon as a Covid-19 vaccine is developed.
“Around 10 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have to be shipped worldwide. Considering the urgency of the task and the issue of maintaining the drugs’ quality, we’re anticipating a big demand surge in air transportation for vaccines,” Korean Air said in a Wednesday statement.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted that 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo planes will be needed to fully meet the transportation demand for vaccine delivery worldwide.
Transportation of medical products and fresh food is a task that requires experience and expertise, says Korean Air. Vaccines, for example, need to be stored and transported in an environment with a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), with some requiring conditions as extreme as minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Last year, 10 percent of Korean Air’s cargo was medical products and fresh food.
On June 2019, Korean Air obtained a certificate from the Center of Excellence for Independent Validation in Pharmaceutical Logistics, or CEIV Pharma, which approved the air carrier’s suitability to transport medical products. An organization under the IATA, CEIV Pharma grants this certificate to cargo companies that fulfill more than 280 categories based on existing regulations and industry standards in regards to shipping pharmaceuticals by air.
The carrier currently has a refrigerated storage facility of 1,292 square meters (13,907 square feet) in Incheon International Airport. This facility can hold roughly 10 tons of cargo that requires temperature control. The current plan is to establish a larger “cool cargo center” at the airport’s Terminal 2, covering 1,872 square meters.
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON   [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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