Cathay Pacific on 21 February successfully delivered over 500,000 doses of the Comirnaty vaccine, co-developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The 585,000 doses, the first batch of the initial one million doses to be supplied to Hong Kong, were transported by the flag carrier from Frankfurt on Saturday. The remaining doses will be delivered in early March, CNA reported.
The vital shipment was prioritised for unloading from the Cathay Pacific freighter flight to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal. The handling of vaccines was facilitated by Airport Authority Hong Kong and Hong Kong International Airport, which also organised the transshipment of another batch to Macao through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB).
Cathay said that so far its new vaccine solution has proven to offer the high levels of quality assurance demanded by these vital shipments, as cargo director Tom Owen explained: “Different vaccines have differing requirements. The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine must be transported in a deep frozen state, which requires more complex transportation and storage solutions.
The carrier added that the introduction of the vaccine solution entailed further training for warehouse and ramp staff for each specific vaccine, both in Hong Kong and the other airports it serves.
To increase links with the European vaccine production hub, the cargo carrier said it will add two cargo-only flights using its B777 to operate on the pharma corridor between Brussels and Hong Kong each week.
The Cathay Pacific shipments to date include the milestone import of the first vaccines for use in Hong Kong on 19 February, which was also the first time the carrier used its free-of-charge Ultra Track service.
One million doses of Sinovac vaccine were loaded inside six temperature-controlled Envirotainer RAP e2 containers, to maintain the vaccine temperature between 2°C and 8°C, and carried in the belly hold of an Airbus A330 operating the scheduled passenger flight, CX391.
On the same flight were 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bound for Mexico. A single Envirotainer RAP e2 container was towed to the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal in a thermal dolly and transferred to a cool room set at 15°-25°C, where it was recharged. It was later loaded for its midnight flight to Mexico City via Anchorage on a B747-8F freighter. Another 800,000 doses to Mexico will follow this week.
Cathay Pacific had previously carried a CanSinoBIO vaccine shipment via Beijing and Hong Kong to Mexico earlier in February using the same equipment and schedule. The airline has also transported a Fosun Pharma/BioNTech shipment to Penang on one of its freighters.
Last month Cathay Pacific Cargo signed an agreement with Unicef, along with a select group of airlines, to support the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility.
According to the AA, a series of tailored arrangements have been put in place to allow the quickest delivery. The aircraft carrying the vaccines was allocated a parking stand close to the cargo terminal handling the consignment. Priority unloading and towing were also arranged for the vaccine shipment, which then underwent expedited customs clearance and priority truck loading at the cargo terminal for a quick release.
Hong Kong has struck deals for a total of 22.5 million doses, with 7.5 million each from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Fosun Pharma, the distributor that will deliver the Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccines to China. The government has so far approved the Sinovac and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
From 26 February, priority groups will be able to receive Sinovac vaccines at five community vaccination centres, Payload Asia learned. The vaccine will also be rolled out in private hospitals and clinics by March.