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  March 2021  
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Leading airlines commit to humanitarian vaccine transport initiative
A shipment of Covid-19 vaccines in the cargo hold of a plane
16 February 2021, UNICEF secures the commitment of several international airline companies for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, in order to ensure equitable access to nations around the world.

By Vatican News staff writer

At least ten international airlines signed up for UNICEF’s Humanitarian Airfreight initiative aimed at prioritizing the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices and other supplies to lower-income countries.

Announcing this development in a statement issued on Tuesday, UNICEF said the humanitarian initiative will act as a “global logistics preparedness mechanism for other humanitarian and health crises over the long term.”

The UN Children’s Fund launched the initiative in February, in collaboration with leading airlines, to respond to the ongoing pandemic and to support vaccination campaigns in countries, regardless of their income level.

Promoting equitable access to vaccines

UNICEF said that the Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative brings together the airlines covering over 100 countries, in support of the COVAX Facility which represents a global effort aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Under the COVAX Facility’s indicative and first-round allocation plan, 145 countries will receive enough doses to immunize approximately three percent of their population, beginning in the first half of 2021.

In addition to providing transport for the life-saving supplies, UNICEF explained that the airlines will take measures including “temperature control and security, while also adding freight capacity to routes where needed.”

Safe delivery of vaccines is crucial

“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 Director of UNICEF Supply Division, Etleva Kadilli.

“We are grateful to these airlines for joining forces with the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to support the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Safe, timely and efficient transportation of life-saving supplies is critical to supporting access to essential services for children and families, and the aviation industry’s role in this is critical. COVAX deliveries and the subsequent vaccination of frontline workers will support health and social care systems to safely resume these critical services,” UNICEF said.