Alibaba's Cainiao launches air route with Ethiopian Airlines, to deliver COVID-19 vaccines

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/1 17:07:41

A staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at Sinovac Biotech Ltd., in Beijing, capital of China. Photo: Xinhua

Alibaba's Cainiao Network announced on Sunday the launch of an air route in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to aid the export of drugs that require temperature-controlled storage facilities, including COVID-19 vaccines. 

The partnership is the first of its kind between China and Africa and represents the latest effort of Chinese authorities and private enterprise in helping Africa and the world combat the pandemic.

With two flights a week, the Boeing 777 cargo flights named "Cainiao" is scheduled to depart from Shenzhen airport in South China's Guangdong Province and arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia via Dubai, Cainiao said in a press release sent to the Global Times.

It said the whole plane can be used for cold chain delivery, with containers able to carry drugs that need to be stored at as low as -20 C.

Tekle G/Yohannes, the airline's area manager for China in Beijing, said that the airline is prepared to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. A storage facility covering 54,000 square meters, along with drug cold chain facility that ranges from -23 C-25 C and cold chain shuttle buses have been put in place at freight stations in Addis Ababa, ensuring that drugs, including vaccines, can be transported and stored there, despite Africa's high temperatures, he said.

With the success of scientific efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines in both China and the US, countries face challenges in addressing strict requirements for cold chain cross-border transportation. For example, Moderna's new coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273 must be stored and transported at -20 C, while Pfizer's vaccine requires temperatures as low as -70 C.

While Chinese cold-chain freezer manufacturers are busy with overseas orders, the aviation sector has also been racing to get prepared for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines.

Wang Ziqiao, a manager with COSCO Shipping Air Freight Co, said at a forum held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Monday that the company contacted cold chain transportation equipment makers in advance to offer a variety of solutions for clients, while actively boosting cooperation with domestic and foreign airlines to prevent shortage of shipping capacity, National Business Daily reported.

To prevent developing countries from falling behind in the race to obtain newly developed COVID-19 vaccines, China has announced it would offer vaccine supplies to African countries, BRICS countries as well as Mekong River countries.


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