The vaccine against COVID-19, that is the great objective at the moment in the world to end the pandemic that is shaking the planet. In recent months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made a major contribution to the global battle against the coronavirus, through its major international cooperation efforts that have brought a huge amount of medical supplies and commodities to dozens of countries around the world.
Several vaccine projects are being completed in different parts of the world that could be in circulation in a relatively short period of time and the Emirates presents itself as a solution to the logistical demand to serve the remedy against the coronavirus throughout the globe. In this regard, amidst an anticipated increase in demand for vaccine logistics, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is poised to consolidate its position as the global logistics hub to facilitate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine worldwide, after spearheading the launch of The Hope Consortium.
This initiative, comprised of leading Abu Dhabi and global entities, represents a comprehensive supply chain solution to address vaccine transportation, demand planning, supply, training and digital technology infrastructure, and to facilitate the availability of vaccines worldwide.
The announcement follows the work of groups such as Etihad Cargo and the initiative that shipped five million vaccines in November on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, which is leading the new consortium and will oversee regulatory compliance, full chain expertise and scientific knowledge. The consortium also includes Abu Dhabi Ports Group, Rafed, the Abu Dhabi-based healthcare procurement arm of ADQ, and Switzerland's award-winning SkyCell, which develops next-generation temperature-controlled logistics containers for the pharmaceutical industry. As part of the Hope Consortium, SkyCell will establish a regional service and manufacturing centre in Abu Dhabi.
The Hope Consortium, through its members, aims to provide logistics services to handle over 6 billion doses of vaccines being developed and manufactured worldwide, in single and multiple doses, in cold and ultra-chill conditions. By 2021, it is expected to increase to three times as many doses, which will require increased logistics capacity at the regional level and make it one of the largest in the world.
"The Hope Consortium is an excellent example of how Abu Dhabi is leading the way in providing solutions and capabilities to help the world overcome this global pandemic. It is a continuation of the collaboration of all the actors in a public-private partnership based in the UAE and with a global reach. While ensuring the supply of vaccines to the domestic market, the Hope Consortium will offer international governments, non-governmental organisations and vaccine suppliers a cohesive solution at every step of the supply chain, from air transport, regional storage and temperature control, to inventory management, cold and ultra-cold container solution, regulatory clearance and quality assurance of medical and pharmaceutical care," as Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed al-Hamed, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, explained in WAM news agency.
"Developing a vaccine is only the first step in arriving at a solution, getting that vaccine to everyone and maintaining robust temperature integrity is an equal challenge in itself, Hope Consortium will provide that solution at the highest level of quality," he said.
"The consortium partners already have extensive experience in the global delivery of millions of COVID-19 related items such as personal protective equipment, diagnostic tools, vaccines and pharmaceuticals. As we move forward in discussions with vaccine manufacturers to inform them of our global distribution capabilities, the Hope Consortium will leverage the combined experience of several stakeholders in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates to provide a comprehensive, end-to-end solution specifically for COVID vaccine distribution needs.
The distribution of the vaccines, which will be stored at the Abu Dhabi Ports Company facility, will be carried out by Etihad Cargo, the first carrier in the Middle East to be certified by IATA's Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) for pharmaceutical logistics. The UAE national airline will leverage its extensive intercontinental network, fleet and charter flights to supply vaccines globally.
The UAE capital's investment in world-class technology expertise and infrastructure facilities means we can serve as a global logistics hub for the world," explained Tony Douglas, Group CEO, Etihad Aviation Group. "Etihad Cargo's role in the consortium will leverage our outstanding logistics expertise and our specialist pharmaceutical and healthcare service, PharmaLife, the IATA CEIV Pharma certified product capable of facilitating temperature sensitive cargo between +25⁰C and -80⁰C. Our network will reach key destinations supported by the use of our charter operations to meet the global demand for fast and secure shipments of COVID-19 vaccine. We are already managing all advance shipment elements through our dedicated COVID-19 vaccine workforce," added Douglas. "A dedicated pharmaceutical handling facility is also being reviewed to accommodate increased capacity at our Abu Dhabi site, as well as additional thermal coverage and enhanced source station capabilities based on established pharmaceutical trade routes and specific requests," he said.
As part of the Hope Consortium, Abu Dhabi Ports, which has the largest cold chain and ultra cold storage capabilities in the Middle East, will leverage its capabilities as an epicentre of innovation serving the Middle East and the rest of the world through Abu Dhabi as a supply chain gateway, connecting East and West.
"This collaboration is in line with our spirit of creating innovative ideas, concepts, solutions and opportunities," said Captain Mohamed Juma al-Shamisi, Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Ports Group. "Abu Dhabi Ports plays a key role in supporting Abu Dhabi's vision of promoting logistics services in the emirate and leading the post-COVID-19 economic revival and recovery through strong partnerships. Our expansive operations are among the largest cold storage chains in the region and enable us to support the emirate's drive to spearhead global immunisation efforts that will positively impact millions of lives," he said. "In addition to leveraging our world-class trade facilitation expertise, our efforts also rest on our subsidiary Maqta Gateway, which is playing a leading role in the development of integrated global digital trade," he added.
Rashed al-Qubaisi, CEO of Rafed, who has already managed high volume products before and during the pandemic for UAE and humanitarian initiatives, added: "Our expertise in centralised procurement services will provide vital support to the consortium. It will further consolidate our efforts for the benefit of our global partners in the public and health sectors.
The Hope Consortium intends to transport the vaccines using SkyCell's hybrid containers. The storage and transport containers are secured through an IoT monitoring service that tracks temperature conditions to ensure that sensitive vaccines are protected even in extreme conditions. With efficient insulation and state-of-the-art cooling technology, the containers maintain constant temperatures for an average of 202 hours (8.4 days) and are automatically recharged in a cooling chamber or refrigerated truck. "Our hybrid packaging will safeguard the full effectiveness of the vaccines that are vital to defeating the pandemic, while reducing long-term commercial and environmental costs," explained Richard Ettl, CEO of SkyCell. "The Hope Consortium has the right partners, infrastructure and service ecosystem to ensure time and temperature sensitive transport in a seamless cold chain operation," he explained.