KQ not on UN list of 14 airlines picked to ferry Covid vaccines


A KQ Dreamliner aircraft. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Airways is missing on the list of over 10 airlines that have signed agreements with the United Nations for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.

The 14, which comprises only two airlines in Africa, include the Nairobi-based Astral Aviation and the Ethiopian Airways.

Kenya Airways, which had recently converted its Boeing 787 passenger into a freighter as it eyed the share of vaccine business, is conspicuously missing on the list.

The airline had late last year launched a modern pharma cargo facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as it eyed vaccine distribution business.

Early this month, Astral Aviation launched a high capacity Boeing 767 aircraft as it sought to expand its capacity of the cargo market. The airline operates flights both in Africa and Europe. The carrier announced last year that it was ready for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines across its scheduled network of over 50 destinations available on charters.

“These airlines have signed agreements with UNICEF to support the prioritisation of delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, essential medicines, medical devices and other critical supplies to respond to the pandemic,” said the agency.

The selected carriers are expected to transport 600 million doses of the vaccine between March and December 2021. These are the free vaccines that World Health Organisation is supplying to Africa to cover about 20 percent of the population in the continent.

UNICEF and Gavi are paying for the vaccines for Africa while the UNICEF is doing the procurement and logistics.

The UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative has been formed with leading airlines to secure the transport of vaccines, and other life-saving supplies worldwide.

The initiative supports the COVAX Facility, a global solution to the Covid-19 pandemic that ensures participating countries have fair access to vaccines, regardless of their income level. Under COVAX, UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of quality-assured Covid-19 vaccines for low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

“The participation of the airline industry is vital to support equal access to vaccines worldwide. The initiative will also act as a global logistics preparedness mechanism for other humanitarian and health crises over the longer term,” said UNICEF.

Other airlines taking part in this initiative include AirBridgeCargo, Air France/KLM, Emirates SkyCargo, Brussels Airlines, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, IAG Cargo, Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

Kenya Airways did not get back to the media inquiry made by Business Daily at the time of going to press.