The Dutch government recently announced that the first vaccinations will probably take place in the Netherlands starting in January. But how does the vaccine actually get from the manufacturer to the Municipal Health Services (GGD) or hospital? Schiphol has been preparing for months to ensure everything is ready for transportation of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Most of the vaccine manufacturers are located in the United States, Europe or China. Depending on the recipient’s location, there is a good chance that some of those vaccines will not be transported by air, but by truck. Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, will arrive from Germany and can be transported by truck to all the places in the Netherlands where it is needed.
It is known that the Pfizer vaccine must be transported at -80 degrees Celsius. For the Moderna vaccine, the temperature should be -20, meanwhile, the University of Oxford vaccine requires transportation at room temperature. How will the vaccines be transported?
A temperature of -80 means the use of dry ice in the container that is being used to transport the vaccines, which in turn means less room for vaccines on the plane. But if a vaccine can be kept at room temperature, it can simply be stored in boxes and on pallets or even on airplane seats. Once it arrives at the next airport it can be loaded onto trucks to be taken to local hospitals or Municipal Health Services (GGD).
IATA (International Air Transport Organization) has calculated that the distribution of a single dose of vaccines to 7.8 billion citizens of the world requires about eight thousand 747 cargo airplanes. On top of that, several vaccines, including Pfizer’s, require two shots.
Schiphol, together with Air Cargo Nederland and Air France KLM Martinair Cargo have started the ‘Vaccines Gateway Netherlands’ task force. They are collaborating with some 60 companies and organizations to make sure the transportation of the vaccines by air goes as smoothly as possible. Customs must approve all shipments of vaccines and security must ensure nothing happens to the vaccines. Eindhoven and Maastricht Airport are also part of the task force. In case there is no space at Schiphol, the vaccines can also be transported via other Dutch airports.