One of Airlink’s many roles, by virtue of our extensive network of nonprofit humanitarian response partners, is to act as convener, and purveyor of jointly learned lessons and best practices. In that role, we often survey our network partners to understand what is happening in the sector to help plan logistical demands and operations.
Global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most significant logistical challenges of this generation. It requires a concerted effort from the pharmaceutical and aviation industries, logistics providers, governments, nonprofit organizations, and community health workers worldwide.
Airlink is committed to contributing to the planning and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. To that end, Airlink conducted a survey that included more than 20 nonprofit organizations that focus on health as their main humanitarian intervention, gathering data and insight into the logistical challenges of supporting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The vast majority of organizations (85%) surveyed are willing to participate in vaccine distribution efforts. Nonprofit organizations reported strong capabilities to support vaccination programs: 74% of organizations reported having access to enough community health workers to help administer a COVID-19 vaccine within their countries of operations, and 62% of organizations reported having internal knowledge of cold chain logistics for handling and distribution of temperature controlled supplies.
The survey was conducted in the last quarter of 2020. Some of the ways organizations were preparing for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines included the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), building the capacity of local health systems, and identifying and solving gaps in the availability of local cold chain storage.
Funding and availability of the vaccine were identified as the main gaps in organizations’ abilities to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries. Airlink is working with organizations in the philanthropic and logistics sectors to support humanitarian relief organizations in their global COVID-19 vaccination programs.
As of February 2021, more than 100 countries still had not received any vaccine, despite global pre-planning. Many of these are in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean and represent a quarter of the global population as well as approximately 7% of all known COVID-19 cases and deaths—a figure that is, at best, a loose approximation as long as testing in these countries is limited. Ultimately, while Airlink is committed to assisting NGO partners with the transportation of donated vaccines, there is simply not enough vaccine available in many parts of the world to serve high-risk populations.
A medical volunteer with Project HOPE administers a vaccine in a Navajo nation clinic
Nevertheless, a major component of Airlink’s near-term response to vaccine-related needs is flights for unskilled and skilled volunteers. These volunteers can manage the inflow of patients to vaccination sites and administer vaccine doses in high-throughput and remote areas, augmenting communities’ ability to reach immunity thresholds quickly.
In the United States, Airlink has transported volunteers from All Hands And Hearts to assist with the COVID-19 testing and vaccination site in the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, as well as sending volunteers from Project HOPE to provide medical support and COVID-19 vaccinations in the Navajo Nation.
Airlink continues to support the movement of ancillary supplies to fight COVID-19 and bolster health systems, including PPE to protect healthcare workers both in hospitals and communities, hygiene items, oxygen and pulse oximetry supplies, and syringes and needles. This effort is thanks to funders like the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Flexport.org, as well as generous donations of capacity from commercial airlines.
Learn more by downloading our report on Airlink’s COVID-19 Global Vaccination Distribution Planning survey. For more information, you can access a summary of our recent webinar on the topic here, and you can also watch this episode of our YouTube show FLIGHTPATH on the logistical challenges for the aviation sector – and consequently all of us in the disaster response field.