Containers carrying AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines under the COVAX scheme against the coronavirus disease are seen at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 7, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ethiopian Airlines says ready to transport Covid-19 vaccines across the world

Africa’s biggest carrier has turned to cargo services to shore up revenue after onset of coronavirus crisis last year

Reuters March 08, 2021

Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying Covid-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years, its head of cargo services said on Sunday.

Africa’s biggest carrier has turned to cargo services to shore up revenue after the onset of the coronavirus crisis last year sent passenger numbers down sharply.

“We have aircrafts converted from passengers by removing their seats, 16 of them, which are very wide aircrafts converted to transport vaccines,” Fitsum Abadi, the managing director of Ethiopian Cargo, said.

He was speaking after an Ethiopian plane landed with the country’s first 2.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines acquired through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative.

Last December, Ethiopian Airlines reached a deal with Cainiao Network, the logistics arm of China’s Alibaba Group, to establish an international cold chain from China for the supply of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines.

Under the deal, temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals are distributed twice a week from the Chinese city of Shenzhen to Africa and beyond via hubs in Dubai and Addis Ababa.

Fitsum said Ethiopian, which operates a fleet of 128 Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier planes, has set up a dedicated vaccine transportation team to liaise with manufacturers.


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