Vaccine shipments off to flying start

Cathay Pacific Cargo Vaccine Solution is in full swing, earning it a place on UNICEF’s Humanitarian Air Freight Initiative

Cathay Pacific Cargo’s Vaccine Solution has been put to the test as the global distribution of vaccines gets underway, including the first shipments destined for use in Hong Kong from Sinovac and Fosun Pharma/BioNTech.

The first shipment for Cathay Pacific’s home city was one million doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on 19 February. Director Cargo Tom Owen said: ‘We were excited and proud to carry the first Sinovac shipment to support the Hong Kong SAR Government’s vaccination programme.’

The vaccines were loaded inside six temperature-controlled Envirotainer RAP e2 containers to maintain the vaccine temperature range of 2°C – 8°C. They were flown in the belly hold of an Airbus A330 operating the scheduled passenger flight CX391.

This was also the first vaccine shipment to use the new Ultra Track near-real-time data logger, an integral part of the Vaccine Solution that will be offered free of charge as it is progressively rolled out across the network.

On the same flight, there were 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine destined for Mexico – the first shipment of the 10 million doses ordered by the Mexican Government for delivery between now and May. On arrival in Hong Kong, the single Envirotainer RAP e2 container with Mexico-bound vaccines was towed to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal in a thermal dolly and transferred to a cool room set at 15°C – 25°C. Here it was recharged ahead of its later midnight flight on CX086 to Mexico City via Anchorage, on a Cathay Pacific Cargo Boeing 747-8F freighter.

Another shipment of 800,000 doses for Mexico followed on 26 February. Cathay Pacific Cargo also previously carried a CanSinoBIO vaccine shipment to Mexico from Beijing via Hong Kong on 10 February, using a similar schedule and equipment.

Most recently, Cathay Pacific Cargo also handled its first shipment of the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine, for use in Hong Kong and Macao, which departed Frankfurt on 26 February. This vaccine requires extremely low temperatures to keep it in optimal condition.

General Manager Cargo Service Delivery Frosti Lau said: ‘Fosun Pharma/BioNTech and forwarder DGF informed us what was required on our part to ensure the ultra-low temperatures were maintained during transportation. We tailor-made specific operating procedures and we also monitored the shipment through our OCC [Operations Control Centre] in Hong Kong. Our customers trusted our knowledge and professionalism, given our previous rounds of operational trials ahead of the actual shipment.’

The shipment arrived in the belly hold of a Boeing 747-8F freighter the following day. The 143 boxes from CSafe containing 685,000 doses were packed with around 2,400kg of dry ice and loaded on to three PMC load units. The shipment received priority unloading at one of the freighter bays close to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal in front of the media, Hong Kong SAR Government representatives and Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang.

(From left) Max Mak, Assistant Manager Cargo Service Delivery; Frosti Lau, General Manager Cargo Service Delivery; Tom Owen, Director Cargo

The Cathay Pacific Cargo Vaccine Solution has proven to offer high levels of quality assurance. This has been recognised not only by shippers and forwarders, but also UNICEF.

Owen said: ‘We’re very proud to be one of the select airlines for UNICEF’s Humanitarian Air Freight Initiative to support COVAX, the global effort aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.’