The first flights carrying coronavirus vaccines have now taken place at Brussels Airport, the airport’s cargo section Brucargo said on Tuesday.
These are test flights or flights to position doses so that they can be distributed quickly once they have been approved for use.
"The whole logistics chain is preparing, worldwide," said Nathan De Valck, head of cargo at the airport. That logistics chain includes the aviation sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Some 30 to 50% of coronavirus vaccines will be distributed by airplane according to De Valck, in what the International Air Travel Association (IATA) has called “the mission of the century.”
— IATA (@IATA) November 25, 2020
“This will be the largest and most complex logistical exercise ever,” said IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac, adding that “the world is counting on us.”
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Air Cargo Belgium’s president David Bellon echoed, de Juniac’s statement, calling the the task “the biggest product launch ever.”
“A great deal of preparation is needed to remove all stumbling blocks so that transport would not be slowed down anywhere along the way,” Bellon said.
Brussels Airport does have expertise, De Valck and Bellon pointed out, and it has 30,000 square metres of cooling space just for pharmaceutical products, but “these corona vaccines have two additional peculiarities,” according to Bellon.
“We need to be able to cope with high volumes in the short term, and each vaccine has its own specific characteristics,” he explained, for example when it comes to the temperature at which the vaccines must be kept.
Up to a quarter of Brussels Airport’s cargo staff will be involved in the vaccine transport sooner or later, according to De Valck.
Upon visiting the airport in late November, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that "Brussels Airport will be a real hub for the import and export of vaccines and will be one of those places that will allow the millions of vaccines to be exported, and some imported.”
The Brussels Times