WHILST this week may be remembered for some of the most thrilling pandemic-delayed global sporting events – not forgetting the world’s first passenger flight into space – others will be aware of the critical role the unglamorous airfreight industry has played in helping to save lives in the face of the highly transmissive Coronavirus Delta variant, writes Thelma Etim.

One latest example is the 1.5 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines which are currently being distributed by the Guatemalan health authorities to its population – after an American Airlines Cargo (AA Cargo) B777-200 passenger aircraft flew out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) bound for La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in Guatemala City on Friday.

According to data collated by the John Hopkins University, the central American country has recorded 317,311 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,688 deaths from the virus. AA Cargo orchestrated the urgent medical mission on a specially donated cargo-only non-stop passenger aircraft on behalf of the United States government, says a statement.

In close consultation with the White House COVID-19 task force, the airline’s airfreight team worked with pharmaceuticals companies and trucking logistics specialists to securely move the precious shipment from a distribution site in Kentucky to the carrier’s Chicago base.

The news follows an earlier White House press briefing during which press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed: “This week, both Guatemala and Vietnam will be receiving COVID vaccine doses from the Biden-Harris administration. Guatemala will receive 1.5 million doses of Moderna and Vietnam will receive two million doses.”

At the start of June, president Joe Biden declared in a statement that, by the end of that month, the United States will distribute 80 million doses of its vaccine supply across the world. “Already the United States has committed US$4billion to support COVAX, and we have launched partnerships to boost global capacity to manufacture more vaccines,” the president underscored in a statement.

“My administration supports efforts to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines because, over time, we need more companies producing life-saving doses of proven vaccines that are shared equitably,” Biden insists.

The COVAX initiative – a global effort co-led by the WHO aimed at providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines – is helping 145 countries to receive initial doses to immunise some three per cent of their populations.

Commenting on the latest vital humanitarian shipment, Robert Isom, president of American Airlines, enthuses: “We commend president Biden and the White House for their commitment to distribute life-saving vaccines to people around the world to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our team is proud to have a hand in the effort and deliver [these] vaccines to Guatemala.

“We are grateful to our team for the work they’ve done throughout the pandemic to keep the country moving and deliver critical supplies.”

Since December last year, when some of the COVID-19 vaccine brands were first approved by global health authorities, the US carrier has orchestrated more than 9,400 cargo-only passenger aircraft flights carrying the life-saving medicines, pharmaceuticals, as well as other perishables and agricultural goods.

American Cargo helps US step up its vaccine contributions

American Airlines Cargo (AA Cargo) base at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

The company’s temperature-controlled centre for handling pharma and life-science products, which is said to be the largest such facility in the United States, has attained the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) in Pharmaceutical Logistics certification and is overseen by a its expert team of specialists, American Airlines Cargo points out.

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