Abu Dhabi launches COVID-19 vaccine hub

With the launch of the Hope Consortium, Abu Dhabi will be able to facilitate the effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in countries across the world.

The Hope Consortium consists of some of the leading entities in Abu Dhabi and across the globe, representing a full-fledged supply chain solution to address various issues related to global vaccine distribution, including demand planning, sourcing, vaccine transportation, training, and digital technology infrastructure in a bid to facilitate the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the world.

In line with the development, Hope Consortium member Etihad Cargo and the consortium will be transporting five million vaccines on behalf of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi in November.

Spearheading the consortium, Abu Dhabi DoH will monitor the necessary regulatory compliance, scientific insight and full chain expertise.

Other entities included in the consortium are Abu Dhabi Ports Group, Rafed (healthcare purchasing company of Abu Dhabi-based ADQ) and SkyCell, Switzerland’s award-winning enterprise which creates high-tech, temperature-controlled logistics container solutions for the pharmaceutical industry. SkyCell will be establishing a regional service and manufacturing centre in Abu Dhabi as part of the Hope Consortium.

Expertise from various sectors and countries have helped the Hope Consortium accumulate a multifaceted capability to provide logistics services to manage more than six billion vaccine doses currently under development and production across the world. It can be single or multi doses, in cold and ultra-cold conditions – these six billion vaccine doses in early 2021 will rise to more than three times by the end of 2021. Such grand-scale vaccine distribution will require one of the largest logistics capability regionally.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, explained that the Hope Consortium is a prime example of how the emirate is leading the nation in providing solutions, capabilities and capacities in the global efforts to combat the pandemic crisis. He added that the Hope Consortium will offer a consolidated solution across every step of the supply chain to world governments, non-governmental organizations, and vaccine suppliers, in addition to providing vaccine supply assurance to the domestic market. These steps will vary from air freight, temperature monitoring and regional storage to inventory management, regulatory clearance, cold and ultra-cold container solution and quality healthcare and pharma assurance.

“It is a continuation of all players’ collaboration of a UAE-based public-private partnership that spans the globe,” Al Hamed noted. 

He further stressed the developing a potential vaccine against COVID-19 is only the first step in moving forward to a solution with the aim of distributing the vaccine to the whole world. Noting that maintaining robust integrity of vaccine temperature is quite a challenge in itself, the Hope Consortium is seeking to provide an effective solution to ensure the highest level of quality.

Al Hamed highlighted that the entities that have partnered with the Consortium have extensive expertise global distribution of millions of COVID-19 related supplies including pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, vaccines and diagnostics consumables. The Hope Consortium continues to interact with vaccine manufacturers to enlighten them about its global distribution capabilities. Furthermore, it will also mobilize the expertise of various UAE and Abu Dhabi stakeholders in a bid to provide an end-to-end, complete solution in line with the requirements of the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.

Etihad Cargo will be carrying out the mammoth task of distribution of the vaccine, which will be stored in Abu Dhabi Ports Company facilities. Etihad Cargo is significantly the first Middle Eastern carrier to have gained IATA’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certification for pharmaceutical logistics. The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates will be harnessing its immense intercontinental network, fleet and charter flights to distribute COVID-19 vaccine across the world.

Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, asserted that the UAE has two-third of the world’s human footprint within a four-hour flight of Abu Dhabi. The UAE leadership has ensured the best possible capital investment in world-class infrastructure facilities and technological expertise, allowing Abu Dhabi to serve as a global logistical hub to and for the world.

Douglas added that Etihad Cargo’s charter operations will support its wide network reach across various destinations in a bid to fulfill the global demand for rapid and secure dispatch of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Etihad Cargo’s role in the consortium will leverage our outstanding pharmaceutical logistics expertise and specialized pharma and healthcare service, PharmaLife, the IATA CEIV Pharma certified product capable of facilitating temperature-sensitive cargo between +25⁰C and -80⁰C,” Douglas noted.

He highlighted that the airline is managing various elements of anticipated shipment with the help of its dedicated COVID-19 vaccines workforce.

“A dedicated pharmaceutical handling facility to accommodate increased capacity at our Abu Dhabi hub is also currently under review, as well as additional thermal covers and enhanced capabilities at origin stations based on established pharma trade lanes and specific requests,” Douglas added.

In line with the efforts of the Hope Consortium, Abu Dhabi Ports will also leverage its capacities as an innovation epicenter in a bid to serve as a supply chain gateway for the Middle East and in countries across the world through Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Ports has the largest capacities for cold chain and ultra-cold storage in the Middle East.

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, group chief executive officer, Abu Dhabi Ports, said that the company has collaborated with the Hope Consortium as part of its keenness in creating innovative solutions, opportunities, ideas and concepts.

He said that Abu Dhabi Ports has played a significant role in supporting the vision of Abu Dhabi authorities in strengthening the emirate’s logistic services and guiding the post-pandemic recovery and economic revival through strong partnerships.

“Our expansive operations at Kizad are among the largest cold chain and ultra-cold storing in the region and enable us to support the emirate’s drive to spearhead global immunisation efforts that will positively impact millions of lives.” Captain Al Shamisi noted.

Besides leveraging its world-class trade facilitation expertise, Abu Dhabi Ports also seeks to strengthen its Maqta Gateway subsidiary, which is playing a crucial role in boosting digital, integrated and global commerce, he added.

Dr.Noura Al Dhaheri, chief executive officer, Maqta Gateway and head of digital cluster at the Abu Dhabi Ports, said that the Abu Dhabi Ports have been supporting the continuous flow of essential cargo including medical and food supplies this year in the fight against COVID-19, however, vaccine distribution will be its most significant success to date. Dr Noura Al Dhaheri highlighted Maqta Gateway’s commitment to developing innovative digital solutions aimed at boosting the transparency and integrity of the supply chain of the region.

Rafed chief executive officer Rashed Al Qubaisi asserted that the company’s expertise in centralised procurement services will provide essential support to the consortium. Rafed has expertise in managing the distribution of large volume products before and during the pandemic for the UAE and its humanitarian initiatives. Through its collaboration with the consortium, Rafed will join the global efforts to benefit all partners in the public and healthcare sectors.

The Hope Consortium seeks to transport the COVID-19 vaccines with the help of SkyCell’s hybrid containers that are protected through an IoT monitoring service. It monitors temperature conditions to protect the sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, particularly under extreme conditions. These containers are equipped with efficient insulation and cutting-edge cooling technology that maintains steady temperatures for an average of 202 hours (8.4 days). They automatically self-recharge in a reefer truck or cooling chamber.

Explaining the capabilities of these hybrid containers, SkyCell chief executive officer Richard Ettl stated that they will protect the full efficacy of vaccines crucial to combating the pandemic while minimising long-term business and environmental costs.

“The Hope Consortium has the right partners, infrastructure and service ecosystem to ensure time and temperature-sensitive transportation of COVID-19 vaccines in a seamless cool chain operation,” Richard Ettl added.

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