The first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine landed from Europe on Monday afternoon, kick starting the nation’s biggest distribution challenge part of the Federal Government’s $6.3 billion vaccine rollout plan.
“The eagle has landed”, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Monday afternoon, comparing the arrival of the first 142,000 Pfizer doses to man stepping foot on the moon.
In a major milestone in Australia’s response to the pandemic, 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine touched down at Sydney airport just after midday on Monday February 15.
This is the first shipment of 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine the Government has secured as part of Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy.
The doses have been securely transported from the airport and the vaccine has to be kept between -60 and -90 degrees Celsius.
DHL, along with a network of 200 ultra-low temperature portable freezers, will ensure Australians across the country, including in rural and remote areas, are able to access the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees.
“The vaccine has landed and we’re stepping up our fight against the pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.
In lessons learnt in rollouts around the world and on the advice of experts, approximately 60,000 vaccines will be provisioned to ensure consistent supply and sufficient stock for second doses. The second dose of the vaccine will be administered at 21 days after the first dose.
Approximately 80,000 doses will be released of the Pfizer vaccine in the first week. It is expected that of these, at least 60,000 will be administered by the end of February with others to be continually administered thereafter.
Subject to TGA approval and shipping confirmation of the international AstraZeneca vaccine, it is expected these numbers will double from early March.
DHL’s expands international distribution with Asia Pacific contracts
DHL is further expanding its global presence in vaccine logistics. On a global scale logistics providers are challenged to establish medical supply chain rapidly to deliver vaccines of unprecedented amount of more than 10bn doses worldwide – also in regions with less developed logistics infrastructures, where ~3bn people live.
To provide global coverage of the next two years, up to 200k pallet shippers and 15m cooling boxes as well as 15k flights will be required across the various supply chain setups, DHL stated in December last year.
Across DHL’s global network, more than 9,000 specialists work to connect pharmaceutical and research organizations, wholesalers and distributors, as well as hospitals and healthcare providers across the value chain. With this contract, the logistics expert for air, ocean and road freight expands its global presence in vaccine distribution.
On Monday February 15, DHL announced it has been contracted for the vaccine distribution to Japan.
The first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines arrived end of last week in Japan. Further shipments will be delivered in various batches by air from the DHL Global Forwarding hub in Belgium to Japan throughout the year. DHL also handles the customs clearance and delivery to a temporary storage facility in Japan, as well as dispatching the vaccines to vaccination facilities across Japan.
“The world has taken another milestone in effectively combating COVID-19 with the development of the vaccines. Now it is essential to make it available to as many people as possible”, says Tim Scharwath, CEO DHL Global Forwarding, Freight.
“Logistics plays a key role here. It is our job to get the vaccine to where it is urgently needed, and we accept the responsibility.”
To safely store the vaccine at -70 degrees until the final domestic delivery in Japan, deep freezers were installed at a DHL storage facility. Further, warehouse operations have been ramped up and this project will create additional job opportunities for local workers in the area.
Leading the logistics race
“The development of a Coronavirus vaccine is a silver lining and we are proud to play an active role as the most global logistics provider in bringing this silver lining to people,” Thomas Mack, Head of Global Airfreight, DHL Global Forwarding said in December 2020.
The first DHL Express aircraft touched down at the Ben-Gurion International Airport Tel Aviv on Wednesday December 9 2020. DHL Express has operated over 50 flights transporting numerous shipments of the urgently needed COVID-19 vaccines within Europe.
Destinations included are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Romania and Sweden who received first batches of the vaccine for the provision of their citizens.
At the time of the initial rollout in Europe, Travis Cobb, Head of Global Network Operations and Aviation at DHL Express said the group’s mission of vaccine distribution commenced.
“Our teams across 220 countries and territories and our global network as the backbone of cross-border Express logistics is ready – to deliver anytime and anywhere.”
“In Europe our strong presence allows us to move medical goods from country to country within up to 24 hours,” Alberto Nobis, CEO DHL Express Europe said on January 8.
Since then, DHL Global Forwarding, Deutsche Post DHL Group has expanded its Life Sciences & Healthcare (LSH) facility in Leipzig by approximately 2,500 square meters.
After Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig is the second DHL Global Forwarding facility to be expanded in terms of capacity and equipment.
“We prepared for this scenario early on and put everything in place to be able to respond effectively and efficiently. Of course, we also benefit from the fact that DHL Global Forwarding Germany is already very experienced in handling and transporting temperature-controlled pharmaceutical shipments. We have a tight, state-ofthe-art network that meets all the strict regulatory requirements in place,” Tobias Schmidt, CEO DHL Global Forwarding in Germany said on January 21.
Besides Europe DHL Express has also served vaccine batches to Bahrain, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Mexico, Oman and Singapore.