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Poor nations face logistical hurdles in vaccine distribution

DHL Express successfully delivered the first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and diluents to the Philippines earlier this month. — COMPANY HANDOUT

DHL EXPRESS said the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in poor countries, including those in Southeast Asia and Africa, continue to face logistical challenges due to a lack of cooling facilities and infrastructure.

“We don’t have any problem to deliver vaccines into 220 countries and territories. To get into the country is not the bottleneck. Things get rough once you are in the country, and you don’t have enough cooling facilities and you don’t have the local infrastructure…. Unfortunately, this is the situation you may find in Southeast Asia and Africa, but we really hope nobody gets left behind in this process,” DHL Chief Commercial Officer Katja Busch said at an online briefing on Tuesday.

“In theory, virtually, the timeframe from production… is between two days and seven days, never longer. So again, the factor that limited [the distribution] is the amount of the available vaccines, never the speed from production to the jet,” she added.

The logistics giant estimated around 10 billion vaccine doses are needed globally by end of 2021 for “high levels of immunization.”

In its white paper titled “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” released on Tuesday, DHL said more than 95% of global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine doses are produced in eight countries, including the United States, Belgium, Germany, Russia, China, and India.

“Last-mile vaccine rollout is the largest logistical challenge, given its unprecedented scale and speed: the aim is to distribute and administer about 10 billion doses by the end of 2021,” DHL said.

The company identified three areas of priorities to speed up the vaccine distribution: collaboration among industries and countries, ensuring safe inbound supply flows, and putting in place locally tailored last-mile, ground distribution models.

DHL Express successfully delivered the first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and diluents to the Philippines earlier this month.

The company also expects the Philippine economy to gradually rebound from this year onwards, DHL Global Philippines Managing Director Yvonne G.H. Lee told BusinessWorld in a recent e-mail interview. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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