News about a taskforce to facilitate the transportation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Singapore is certainly a breath of fresh air and adds a bit more context to the complicated logistics this would entail.
The Changi Ready Taskforce, co-led by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG), jointly announced on 8 December that the Singapore air cargo hub is ready to ship vaccines, with 18 members pledging support.
The taskforce is a public-private collaboration involving government agencies, cargo handlers, airlines and freight forwarders, which will see dnata, SATS, Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines and other members working together to ensure an unbroken cold chain for the effective handling of temperature-sensitive vaccines.
This comes after recent news about the HSA reviewing Moderna’s vaccine data for use in Singapore and the start of shipments for Pfizer’s vaccine after receiving emergency use approval from the UK.
Changi said the taskforce has been working since October to identify and address the potential challenges associated with air transportation of vaccines through workstreams.
Following guidelines from the TIACA and Pharma.Aero’s Project Sunrays with which Changi Airport is involved, the hub’s cargo handlers, dnata and SATS, have been building on its cool chain infrastructure and equipment. Climate-controlled warehouses to store vaccines between -25°C and +25°C are available. Both have also introduced cool dollies, in addition to multiple temperature-controlled truck docks, round-the-clock shipment monitoring and surveillance systems to ensure cargo security.
When handling vaccines that require a frozen or deep-frozen state much like how UPS is transporting Pfizer’s vial shipments, the taskforce said its cargo handlers have ready access to dry ice to cater, along with trained personnel to handle them.
Despite the reduced bellyhold capacity with fewer passenger planes, Changi said its airline partners have introduced passenger services for cargo conveyance to alleviate the capacity crunch, in addition to charters and scheduled freighter operations.
Singapore Airlines operates multiple weekly flights from Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt, and has an extensive network in Southeast Asia and Southwest Pacific, whilst integrators DHL, FedEx and UPS have regional hubs in Singapore with strong network connectivity from Changi Airport.
Apart from Changi’s extensive air network, Singapore’ air-sea freight connectivity gives another option for pharma manufacturers to distribute their vaccines into Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific.
Ho Yuen Sang, Director (Aviation Industry), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and co-lead of the Changi Ready Taskforce, commented: “Over the years, Changi Airport has built a strong track record in pharmaceutical handling by air, from serving Singapore’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. We have good cold chain handling infrastructure and capabilities. With our strong air connectivity and SIA’s fleet of more than 200 passenger aircraft, we can deliver vaccines to multiple destinations according to demand. We are well-positioned to play a critical role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Singapore and the region. By bringing all players in the air cargo supply chain together through the Changi Ready Taskforce, CAAS and our partners can ensure the safe, reliable and effective transportation of these vaccines.”
A full list with all the taskforce members are as follows: