FedEx, Blue Dart geared for Covid vaccine delivery challenge

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on January 15, 2021

A cold storage haulage truck containing Covid-19 vaccines leaves from the cargo section of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi   -  Bloomberg

Express cargo movers fully ready in terms of skills, process and infra

As India launches its Covid-19 vaccination programme, the role of express cargo service providers like FedEx and Blue Dart will be critical, right from the origin to destination of the vaccine. And they are fully geared to take up the huge challenge ahead of them.

Speed is the essence in vaccine logistics and it is the express operators who can deliver since they have the skills, process and infrastructure, said B Govindarajan, Chief Operating Officer, Tirwin Management Services (P) Ltd, a Chennai-based aviation consultancy firm.

Jack Muhs, Regional President, FedEx Express Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, said that distribution of vaccine is a complex logistical effort, and FedEx is one part of the process. The requirements and rules for the transport and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines vary, based on the make-up of the vaccines themselves. Vaccine manufacturers and governments will determine specific distribution strategies. FedEx’s role is the safe and efficient transportation of these vaccines to their final point of delivery.

FedEx is adding ultra-low temperature storage at key gateway locations and putting required low temperature freezers at the FedEx Delhi and Bengaluru gateways, he said.

Network readiness

“We have the experience and network readiness to move these shipments within and around key locations across India. We are also placing cold boxes in strategic locations across India, and will have access to warehouses and vehicles with cold storage capacity for long-haul transportation on demand, he said. FedEx has been shipping active ingredients to manufacturers to support vaccine development, and its solutions meet requirements set by governments and pharma manufacturers for transportation and distribution. It is working with healthcare customers, alongside government officials and regulatory agencies, to prepare for the shipment of the vaccines when they are approved and ready, he said.

Specialised infra

According to Ketan Kulkarni, CMO and Head-Business Development, Blue Dart, an effective vaccine cold chain and logistics system, including storage and transportation, is the core of all immunisation programmes.

Blue Dart has been transporting vaccines, clinical samples and many more medical grade supplies for various pharmaceutical vaccine manufacturers. “We are actively partnering with pharma companies to take care of their express logistics needs, through our Temperature Controlled Logistics (TCL) services,” he said.

Kulkarni said Blue Dart has specialised life science solution experts and has already done background work in terms of the capacity requirements — materials for packaging, availability of data loggers, insulated shippers, walk-in cold room, coolant, network reach, manpower preparedness and technology investment to handle requirements in this direction. It also has both single-use packaging that provides temperature stability of 48-72 hours and multi-use boxes that can provide temperature stability of 96 hours, he said.

Blue Dart already has the operational experience and specialised infrastructure required to handle bio-medical shipments. “We have our own fleet of six Boeing 757 freighters, 20,000 plus ground vehicles servicing 34,000+ locations and a strong army of Blue Darters,” he said.

Published on January 15, 2021

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