Importance for air cargo services to carry Covid-19 vaccines has yet to reach the levels many expected.

The industry had been energizing itself for a rush in Covid 19 vaccine demand once vaccination programs had been launched, last year.

However, there has been a slow increase in demand so far, with road freight operations carrying burnt of volumes as manufacturing sites satisfy local need first.

“The amount of vaccine that is actually being flown, relative to that is now being trucked is quite small,” said Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo.

“So for us we are gearing up for playing a part but anticipating that is really not going to happen until the middle part of 2021.”

There is a large amount of manufacturing capacity in UK, Belgium, Germany and some other places in Europe and most of the output of those manufacturing sites is for local consumption, it’s not for international consumption.

“But we do see a significant lack of production capability in places in Africa, Pakistan, large swathes of Southeast Asia. Once that local consumption has been satisfied, then you trigger the international need.”

Vaccine demand may not be as high as many had expected, Dan Morgan-Evans, group cargo director at the UK-based global charter broker explained. He also noted that the complete picture of future airfreighted vaccine distribution is “a bit unknown” but Morgan- Evans does not believe initial industry predictions that we will need 10,000 freighter flights to move vaccines worldwide because some vaccine production will be mostly at a domestic level, like in US.

“You can get a lot of vials in an aircraft and I don’t know whether you will get to a stage similar to the PPE gold rush. I am not convinced of that.”

He offered a proviso: if the mutant varients of Covid 19 need current vaccines to be regulated, then there maybe a repeat rush.

 It will probably be the knock-on effect further down the line, if the vaccine does play into the airfreight market.

“Some non-vaccine products will not fly because of a lack of belly space, so that will affect the commercial market.”

Virgin Atlantic Cargo was one of many carriers to develop a new service to cater for the specialist needs of transporting vaccines, last year.

24/7 support team, automatic live status updates, proactive service recovery and periodical integrity checks, temperature-controlled facilities and a dedicated booking team are offered by Pharma Secure.

It also includes security escorts, dedicated email for bookings, quotes and support, priority access to capacity and unloading at Heathrow, money back guarantee, GDP trained staff and access to temp-controlled facilities.

Kennady mentioned that, the airline has WDA (GDP) accreditation in the UK, while partner airline Delta is CEIV certificated at JFK.