Brussels airport braces for logistical challenges of vaccine distribution

By María Moya

Brussels, Dec 19 (efe-epa).- With its specialized infrastructure, Brussels-Zaventem airport is preparing for the logistical challenges of becoming the main entry and distribution point for the first Covid-19 vaccines destined for the European Union.

The European Medicines Agency is poised to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, says the rollout of the jab would begin on 27, 28 and 29 December.

Pfizer and BioNTech are manufacturing the vaccine at a factory in the Belgian town of Puurs, just 35 kilometres from the airport. It is set to be the first candidate approved by the EMA.

Moderna has also submitted the paperwork and has been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

Nathan de Valck, head of cargo product and network development, tells Efe that over the last 10 years, Brussels airport has become specialized in the transportation of vaccines and pharmaceuticals, such as the jab against Ebola.

He adds that one of the challenges in this regard is to tailor the airport’s infrastructure to the transport requirements of different vaccines. The airport already has storage units ranging from room temperature to below freezing.

His team has to maintain a line of communication with the leading producers of Covid-19 vaccine candidates, including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, to be able to adapt to the varying needs of each jab.

The transport hub has a warehouse space spanning 30,000 square metres, which is managed by different operators, and the airport’s cargo operator, Brucargo, counts on 5,000 employees.

Each Covid-19 vaccine leaves the factory in conditions specific to its preservation. The Pfizer-BioNTech jab, for example, is stored in containers that use dry ice to control the temperature between -70C (-94F) and ±10C for a period of up to 10 days.

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