The American Airlines Cargo team is preparing to transport the COVID-19 vaccine once approved by conducting trial flights, in conjunction with pharmaceutical and cargo partners, from Miami to South America on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
The trial flights began in mid-November, and they simulate the conditions required for the COVID-19 vaccine to stress test the thermal packaging and operational handling process so the vaccine remains stable as it moves across the globe, the airline said.
According to American Airlines, the airline’s cargo operation has been shipping life-saving medicine for more than eight decades.
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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Fort Worth-based airline has transported hundreds of thousands of pounds of personal protective equipment items, medical equipment items, COVID-19 test kits, and pharmaceuticals to help battle the coronavirus, the airline said.
American said the airline has also been involved in transporting components for Phase III COVID-19 vaccine trials, including carrying test vaccines and specimens to research facilities around the world.
“A COVID vaccine is essential for everyone’s health and well-being and for our nation’s recovery," American Airlines Cargo President Jessica Tyler said. “The American Airlines team is working collaboratively with cargo, pharmaceutical and federal partners so we are ready to safely and quickly transport an approved vaccine. Despite the significant challenges the airline industry is facing, we’re working night and day to put our greatest strengths to use during this time of need — our network, our aircraft and our incredible team.”
The COVID-19 vaccine, like many other vaccines, needs special handling to keep a consistently cold temperature throughout their journey, the airline said.
According to American, the airline has established a network of facilities and team members who specialize in temperature-critical shipments and are familiar with handling the variety of requirements for different pharmaceuticals.
American has earned the International Air Transport Association’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics certification, a designation given to air carriers and those involved in the air cargo supply who can ensure life sciences products are properly handled and arrive at their destination with full efficacy.
Vaccine shipments can be sent in “active containers” with built-in temperature controls that regulate and monitor shipments during transport, or “passive containers” that are cooled with cold packs or dry ice in an enclosed system designed to keep the product cold during its journey, the airlines said.
Each shipment will be tracked throughout its journey on the ground and from American’s Cargo Control Center, located at the airline’s Integrated Operations Control in Fort Worth.