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ATLANTADelta Air Lines says it is ready to distribute time and temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines as there will be a huge demand for these vaccines around the world upon the approval.
The Atlanta-based carrier has a 40,000-square-foot cold chain facility at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, its largest hub, which is certified to handle temperature- and time-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Capacity at that facility was, fortuitously, increased last year, according to Rob Walpole, Delta’s new vice president of cargo operations. The airline also has the electrical infrastructure to power the cold containers at Hartsfield-Jackson.

The federal government has dedicated billions of dollars in funding to the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. Walpole said he believes “there’s more than enough 1/8 business3/8 to go around for the carriers.”

“We are planning to commence distribution of vaccines as they become available, in the back half of December and certainly into the first quarter next year,” he said during a briefing last week.

Delta also has cooling facilities at other hubs and locations around the world that can handle pharmaceutical shipments.
While the airline doesn’t operate a fleet of cargo freighters, it can use belly cargo space on its passenger flights and operates cargo-only charter flights.

The airline handled vaccine trial shipments on international and domestic flights “with zero issues,” Walpole said and has set up a “vaccine control tower” operation.

Other carriers have gotten an early start in the market. United Airlines handled the first mass air shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines last week, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Sandy Springs-based UPS also expects to play a major role in shipping vaccines and has expanded freezer farms at its facilities.

Delta is still in discussions with vaccine manufacturers, Walpole said. Airlines could be paid for vaccine shipments by freight forwarders or by the manufacturers themselves, he said, adding that any final agreements with manufacturers would be struck as vaccines become available.

Special approvals to transport vaccines on its largest aircraft would mean Delta could fly with twice as much as normally allowed and up to six times more when carrying the Pfizer vaccine, Walpole said.

Vaccines must be kept cold when they are unloaded from the plane and throughout handling.#
Via (The Detroit News)
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