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Astral Aviation Outlines its Commitment of Transporting COVID-19 Vaccines To and Within Africa

Article submitted by Astral Aviation Limited – TIACA Trustee and Board Member

In February 2021, Astral Aviation Limited signed an agreement with UNICEF to support the launch of its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative for the prioritization of delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices and other critical supplies to respond to the pandemic.

In addition to the agreement with UNICEF, Astral Aviation will also provide air-transport of Covid-19 Vaccines for the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) which has acquired 270 million doses previously secured from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnsons for the first allocation along with an additional 300 million Sputnik V vaccines orders for the 55 African Union member states.

“Delivery of these life-saving vaccines is a monumental and complex undertaking, considering the sheer volumes that need to be transported, the cold chain requirements, the number of expected deliveries and the diversity of routes” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF Supply Division. “We are grateful to these airlines for joining forces with the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to support the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.”

“We are truly honored for being selected by UNICEF to participate in the Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, based on our track-record in performing humanitarian flights within Africa and the Middle East in the past twenty years. We will be placing our entire fleet of B747F, B767F, B727F, DC9F, CRJ-200, Fokker 50 and Fokker 27 on high priority, which is critical to the timely and secure delivery of vaccines and critical supplies, as we consider it our moral-obligation to ensure that no person in Africa is left-behind due to lack of aircraft capacity, re-affirms Astral Aviation’s CEO, Mr Sanjeev Gadhia”

The UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative brings together the airlines covering routes to over 100 countries, in support of the COVAX Facility – the global effort aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Based on the COVAX Facility’s indicative distribution and first round allocation plan, 145 countries will receive doses to immunize around three per cent of their population, on average, starting in the first half of 2021, subject to all requirements being met and final allocation plans.

In addition to prioritizing shipments of these life-saving supplies, Astral Aviation will take measures such as temperature control and security, while also adding freighter capacity to routes where needed.

Astral’s Nairobi Hub at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has air-side cold-storage facility of 9,000 m2 which is adequate to store upto 300 million doses of vaccines at Africa’s Premier Hub

“Astral’s Pharma Product combined with the expertise of its Pharma team provides a reliable and efficient service for temperature sensitive products across the network, which includes safe re-packing and re-icing service which will enhance the cool-chain value of vaccines for onward distribution within Africa”, according to Michael Mutahi, Chief Operations Officer of Astral Aviation.

WHO Africa confirms that 35 Countries in Africa have been approved to receive the Covid Vaccine from COVAX although there is a need to enhance systems to manage the logistics and supply-chain for vaccines.

According to the WHO vaccine introduction readiness assessment tool, African nations are on average 42% ready for their mass-vaccination campaigns, which is an improvement on the starting point of 33% two months ago. However, there is still a long way to go to reach the desired benchmark of 80%.