covid vaccine

What does less air travel mean for Covid-19 vaccine?

As scientists move closer to producing a vaccine to fight Covid-19, once approved to market, it’ll need to be shipped to the global population. But there a few obstacles distributors will need to find solutions to before this can happen.

What’s the main challenge?  

There are still far less passenger aeroplanes flying around the world, due to state and national lockdowns, and border closures. In fact, International Air Transportation Association (IATA) estimates more than 50% of cargo worldwide is transported in the bellies of passenger planes. This means logistics organisations must deliver more than 15 billion Covid-19 vaccines during a time where passenger travel on aeroplanes is down by 85%.

What are the other challenges?  

  • Vaccines are classified as infectious substances, identifying them as dangerous goods. Therefore, they must travel at controlled temperatures. This makes loading and unloading the vaccines on transport vehicles a very delicate operation.
  • Vaccines are being developed so fast that pharmaceutical companies don’t have enough time to know how long the vaccine can remain ‘stable’ during transport. At present, it’s still unknown exactly how long the vaccine can be stored and at what temperature. This factor is usually established after years of testing and research.
  • Companies will need to quickly train staff to ensure the vaccine is packaged to meet dangerous goods regulations. When moving infectious substances, those handling and transporting the vaccines must be trained and certified to ensure they’re meeting dangerous goods regulations. Whilst this isn’t a lengthy task, training a large number of people in a short amount of time may cause a bottleneck for the transportation of the vaccine.
  • A shortage of transport equipment. With so many vaccines needing to be moved around the world, logistics companies may find they have a shortage of trucks and vans, all of which need to be refrigerated to ensure the substance remains at the correct temperature.
  • Air cargo rates are likely to continue fluctuating. As rates increased three to four times over the last few months, transporting billions of vaccines around the world will likely cause air cargo prices to remain high.

Airlines, freight companies and governments will need to find new ways of operating to ensure distribution of the coronavirus vaccine can happen as fast and smooth as possible.

If you’d like more information about the safe storage, handling and transportation of infectious substances such as vaccines, please contact us.

Disclaimer: the information in this article is not intended to be used as a complete guide, it won’t suit every infectious substances situation or type of transport as it contains recommendations of a general nature. Compliance requirements and safety standards can only be met by applying professional advice specific to each transportation situation. If you’d like more information or require advice for your dangerous goods management system, please contact us here.  

Marair Dangerous Goods Specialists


12 Allied Drive
Tullamarine Victoria 3043 Australia
Phone: +61 3 8318 4500


55 Tacoma Circuit
Canning Vale WA 6155 Australia
Phone: +61 8 6350 0200


Unit 7 14 Childs Road
Chipping Norton NSW 2170 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9727 3284

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