Emirates mobilizes for COVID-19 vaccine airlift

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Updated 20 November 2020

Emirates mobilizes for COVID-19 vaccine airlift

LONDON: Dubai-based carrier Emirates is gearing up to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as pharma companies mobilize for the challenging logistics of delivering them to users.

It comes as airlines have warned that continuing travel curbs could potentially slow the distribution of the vaccines because of the high proportion of air cargo transported in the bellies of passenger planes.

As one of the big “super connector” hubs of global travel, Dubai and its airline may play an important role in the months ahead as the new COVID-19 vaccines move into mass production.

“In the scenario where a COVID-19 vaccine would have to be stored at extremely low temperatures, vaccine manufacturers will include passive packaging incorporating dry ice in order to maintain the vaccines at the required temperature,” an Emirates SkyCargo spokesperson told Arab News.

“At our dedicated GDP certified COVID-19 airside hub in Dubai, we would be able to provide value added services including re-icing to help maintain the vaccines at the specified low temperature over a longer period of time.”

Earlier, BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin told CNN said that the company, which has been working on a COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer, will file paperwork for the emergency use of its vaccine with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday.

Şahin said he expected the approval process to be completed and distribution to begin before the end of the year.

“I am confident that if everything goes well, and we have a very organized vaccine supply, that we could have a normal winter 2021 — a normal summer and winter 2021,” said Şahin.

Pfizer has said that a final analysis of the phase 3 trial of its coronavirus vaccine showed it was 95 percent effective in preventing infections, even in older adults.

Other major airline groups are also preparing for distribution of the planned new vaccines. Air France-KLM said this week that it was preparing a test run to fly out dummy vaccine shipments from the KLM hub at Amsterdam-Schiphol.

Last year Emirates SkyCargo transported more than 75 million kilograms of pharmaceuticals on its aircraft.

Since 2016, the carrier has invested heavily in developing EU GDP certified infrastructure for transporting pharmaceuticals and introduced a specialized product ‘Emirates Pharma’ with three tiers for transporting temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Last month Emirates SkyCargo revealed plans to establish the world’s first dedicated airside cargo hub for the vaccine in Dubai. The air cargo carrier is setting up its Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal in Dubai South to serve as a dedicated hub for cold chain storage and distribution of the vaccine.


US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

Updated 29 November 2020

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.