United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) is outlining a plan to transport up to 850 tonnes of Covid-19 vaccines per month in 2021 on behalf of Covax. The amount is more than double the average weight of vaccines the organisation transports every month.
According to a press release, "The assessment is part of Unicef's work to lead on the procurement and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries on behalf of the COVAX Facility, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)."
"This is a mammoth and historic undertaking," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef Executive Director. "The scale of the task is daunting, and the stakes have never been higher, but we are ready to take this on."
Unicef estimated a cost up to $70 million for delivering vaccines through commercial airlines to almost 92 low- and lower-income countries which are among the 190 economies participating in the COVAX Facility.
Their assessment also found that current air cargo capacity would be sufficient to make deliveries covering 20 percent of the population for most of the 92 countries.
"Covid-19 vaccines are expected to be primarily shipped using existing passenger and cargo flight capacity, although charters or alternative transport options may still be needed for some small countries and others with access issues," the press release reads.
"Unicef is working with airlines and the wider logistics industry to prioritise the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines around the world," it added.
As there is a challenge of local cold chain capacity for vaccine storage in some low- and lower-income countries, Unicef, WHO, Gavi and the Vaccine Alliance have developed a guideline to help these countries develop their supply chain strategies.
"Given the range of storage temperatures required for Covid-19 vaccines, countries will continue to train logisticians and health workers on how to keep Covid-19 vaccines at the right temperatures," said the press release.
Since 2017, Unicef has been working on the installation of 70,000 cold-chain fridges in lower income countries by the end of 2021. Gavi has been supporting Unicef in this programme. The cold-chain fridges will help in the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines that need to be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. Almost half of these will be solar powered.
Meanwhile, Unicef has called for $410 million to help countries with the delivery of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tools in 2021. Further, it estimates a funding gap of $133 million to cover in-country vaccine logistics and the required cold chain equipment for the poorest 92 countries.