The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is planning a "mammoth operation" to deliver coronavirus vaccines to more than 90 low- and middle-income countries as soon as doses are available, it said on Monday.
UNICEF is working with more than 350 logistics partners, including major airlines, shipping lines and freight operators globally "to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible," said Etleva Kadilli, director of the agency's supply division.
“This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation. We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect front line workers around the globe,” she added.
UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week briefed airlines last week on the expected requirements and how almost 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be transported next year. A further 1 billion syringes will be transported by sea.
“The procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated to be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken,” it said.
The agency is the biggest single vaccine buyer in the world, obtaining more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response in almost 100 countries. It said it has vital expertise in supply chain management of temperature-controlled products like the coronavirus vaccines.
It is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the COVAX Facility, it said.
UNICEF has worked with logistics operators to transport supplies during the pandemic, delivering more than $190 million worth of supplies such as masks, gowns, oxygen concentrators and diagnostic test kits.