Ethiopian leverages cold chain facilities to bring vaccines to Africa
Addis Ababa, February 8, 2021 (FBC) -Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopian) is taking the lead among African airlines by transporting the continent’s first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived on a cargo flight from Beijing to Addis Ababa over the weekend.
The flight was the culmination of large investments Ethiopian has made in its pharmaceutical and temperature-controlled transport facilities, according to Airline Weekly.
The carrier operated a cargo flight from Beijing to Addis Ababa with vaccines en route to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, carrying doses of the Sinovac Chinese Covid-19 vaccine.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being used in the the U.S. and much of the West, the Chinese-developed vaccine can be stored at ordinary refrigerator temperatures. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require storage at -70 and -20 degrees Celsius, respectively.
But even the Sinovac vaccine’s less onerous requirements pose logistical challenges in a region with poor infrastructure. In anticipation of COVID vaccine transport.
Ethiopian Airlines last year invested in its Pharma Wing, a temperature-controlled facility capable of handling cold storage and local transport.
Key to vaccine transport is maintaining the “cold chain,” or controlling the temperature of a shipment from point of manufacture, on the aircraft, and through ground shipment on both ends of the journey.The company also launched cargo flights to Asia via Anchorage.
“We will be repeating the remarkable and globally recognized success in leading the fast delivery of [personal protective equipment] few months ago with similar delivery speed, professional handling and maintaining the cool chain during the global vaccine distribution,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said in a statement.
The airline last year pivoted its cargo operations to focus on transporting medical supplies to Africa and throughout its network.
“We are carrying medical supplies in both scheduled and charter flights using the cabin and belly hold of our passenger aircraft besides our cargo fleet,” Tewolde said last year.
“Despite the grim situation the world is grappling with, we feel heartened by the small contribution we are making to curb further loss of lives by carrying critical medical supplies where they are needed the most.”