Some cargo is too urgent to be transported by sea, spending weeks on a container ship. COVID-19 vaccines fit into this category, with airlines having the tremendously important task of distributing the precious cargo in a safe, secure, and timely manner. Ethiopian Airlines is one of the carriers involved, announcing Saturday that it’s transported 50 million vaccine doses to date.
Supporting vaccine distribution across Africa
On September 4th, Ethiopian Airlines Group announced that it had transported 50 million vaccine doses to more than 28 countries worldwide. In doing so, it is now the only African carrier to reach this milestone.
The work of transporting vaccines was carried out by the airline’s cargo division: Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, which is actually Africa’s largest cargo service provider. The firm says that it has successfully distributed the vaccines via its specially equipped facility called ‘Pharma Wing.’
“Ethiopian Airlines has played its irreplaceable role in responding to dire need of the global cargo transportation amidst the pandemic. By this, the Airline has proved to be the pioneer and an epitome of continental and global solidarity.” -Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Ethiopian Airlines has been working hard and helping since the start of the crisis.
Indeed, prior to distributing vaccine doses, the airline contributed to the initial efforts in combating the virus. This saw Ethiopian Airlines transport critical medical supplies to countries all over the world. To date, the number of countries is now over 80.
Ethiopian also notes that it was one of the few airlines that worked continuously throughout the crisis, despite border closures and travel restrictions. As a result, the airline says that it has been able to reunite or repatriate more than 63,000 stranded passengers since the start of the crisis.
The first delivery to Ethiopia
March 7th, 2021, was another important day for the airline, as it proudly delivered 2.184 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Ethiopia. The delivery was made possible through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative.
Landmark Event! #Ethiopia🇪🇹 has received the #AstraZeneca #COVID19 vaccine via #COVAX. This is a big step towards ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. @WHO @Gavi @CEPIvaccines @UNICEF @PMEthiopia @AbiyAhmedAli @WHOAFRO @FMoHealth pic.twitter.com/XvgXL4c0OX
— WHO Ethiopia (@WHOEthiopia) March 7, 2021
As noted in a previous article, the airline’s cargo division expects demand for vaccine distribution operations to last for as long as three years. Fitsum Abadi, the managing director of Ethiopian Cargo, told Reuters how the Ethiopian fleet has adapted to the uptick in cargo demand, saying:
“We have aircrafts converted from passenger [configurations] by removing their seats, 16 of them, which are very wide aircrafts converted to transport vaccines.”
Of course, it’s not just Ethiopian that has been busy transporting vaccines. Indeed, mega-airline Emirates celebrated the transport of 150 million vaccine doses in July 2021. Further back in March, Aerolineas Argentinas announced that it had transported over four and a half million doses to Argentina from Russia and China.