Distributing the COVID-19 vaccines to more than seven billion people across the globe could require a global airlift of 8,000 Boeing 747 freighters, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The estimate assumes that inoculation would require a single dose, but the demand for jets could be higher if multiple doses are needed, Glyn Hughes, IATA's head of cargo said, as quoted by Bloomberg.
"Airlift is the correct terminology here," Hughes said. "We know the procedures well. What we need to do is scale them up to the magnitude that will be required," he added at a media briefing.
The pandemic has created a rush to create vaccines, with more than 30 candidates going through human clinical trials.
IATA is working with airlines, airports, global health bodies and pharmaceutical firms to prepare a distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines, even touting it as the industry’s “largest single transport challenge ever."
If some vaccines require temperatures of 2-to-8 degrees Celsius, then some aircraft might not be suitable, Hughes said. Shipments that require freezing would exclude even more planes.
Air France-KLM is exploring ways to expand its network in Africa, and Frankfurt airport is looking for ways it can assist the distribution, Bloomberg reported.
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