Russian logistics industry feels prepared for COVID-19 vaccine tsunami

This includes storing of the future serums at extreme low temperatures, if required. The industry’s notification is a reaction to a study presented by BioNTech and partner Pfizer last
Monday, announcing a breakthrough in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In different reports, Gordon Dugan, Professor at Cambridge University, is quoted by Russian media as saying that once the COVID-19 serums are available and produced on a mass scale, they need to
be stored at -70°C. This is clearly a precautionary measure, he argues, to safeguard the stability of the vaccines and prevent them from getting spoiled. Otherwise, the serum might react to
temperature changes and lose its protective effect, Mr. Dugan warned.

Much depends on the infrastructure
Usually vaccines are transported and stored at plus 2-8° Centigrade. So transporting pharmaceuticals that require special conditions is a common task managed daily by many airlines and their
ground handling agents worldwide, provided their facilities are equipped with cool rooms offering different climate zones. Transportation at -70°C will pose serious challenges.
Yet. in a reaction, Oleg Baykov, Deputy CEO of Russian biotech company Biocard, engaged in the delivery of Russian vaccine “Sputnik V”, backed Mr. Dugan’s assumptions: “Transporting the
vaccines at ultra-low temperatures is definitely possible. In this case, specialized thermal containers and refrigerants are the best option for safely accommodating the COVID-19 serums or other
sensitive medicines during air carriage and ground processes.

Russian freight carriers claim to be ready to distribute C-19 vaccines according to industrial provisions  -  courtesy of ABC / V-D Group
Russian freight carriers claim to be ready to distribute C-19 vaccines according to industrial provisions – courtesy of ABC / V-D Group


… and also the people
He pointed out that the weak spot for maintaining constant temperatures are hubs and transfer points, including remote distribution centers, where temperature deviations can occur if the ground
handling personnel is not trained well enough, not knowing how to treat the vaccine shipments professionally.  
He claims that leading Russian logistics players including carriers such as ABC or Volga-Dnepr subsidiary ATRAN are ready to cope with the challenge and able to assure domestic transports or
within the neighboring CIS states not exceeding 4 days. In a separate statement, ABC confirmed that the carrier is well prepared to fly the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccines, utilizing special thermal
containers that maintain steady temperatures, even if the serums demand -70 C degrees.  

Transberry opts for passive cooling
Another household name confirming the Russian logistics industry’s readiness to transport and handle the highly temperature sensitive vaccines is Transberry LLC. The company provides express
delivery and forwarding services combined with air cargo transportation. Depending on the amount of vaccines and the specifics of the supply chain, the volume of ice is calculated. Delivery even
to the remotest corners of the country will take 3-4 days, Transberry maintains. The best conditions for smooth and professional handling exist at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. There the ground
handler Russian Cargo runs a 2017 inaugurated large warehouse, which is equipped with 60 storage positions for temp critical goods.

High standards
An executive of Russia’s Pharmaceutical Customer Support Department told local media that planning and equipping warehouses with cool zones needs 4 – 6 months – minimum. The same amount of time
will be needed to decide on a contractor, to install the mostly imported equipment and train the ground handling personnel as best as possible. Essential conditions to ensure that everything goes
well once the first major wave of COVID-19 vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, or CureVac arrives by air and needs to be processed. The Russian vaccine Sputnik V was only classed
as an “also ran” in the announcements.

Heiner Siegmund


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Source: Cargoforwarder

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