Logistics Industry Challenge: Delivering the COVID-19 Vaccine

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The air cargo sector was amongst one of the hardest-hit industries in 2020. The viral outbreak of COVID-19 had seen heightened travel restrictions and temporary bans for both commercial and cargo flights. This resulted in a scarce supply of international air freight – an effect that snowballed to businesses that relied heavily on this mode of transport. 

Many countries have effectively controlled the spread of the pandemic to pave the way for the opportunity to resume international trade again. In September 2020, China – the largest exporting nation of the world – has begun ramping up on industrial activities to cater to increasing demands from overseas businesses. An optimistic indicator that cross-border trading will pick up in Q3 and Q4 of the year.


In response to COVID-19, global human vaccine production is expected to increase approximately tenfold by 2021, up to almost 10 billion units for worldwide distribution. This large spike will require an estimated 65,000 tonnes of air freight in comparison to 13,500 tonnes in 2019. 

According to IATA, “the potential size of the delivery is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 cargo aircraft. Land transport will help, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use air cargo.”

Although the properties of the vaccine remain uncertain at this stage, it is likely that air transportation will be the primary mode of transport, due to the urgent and sensitive nature of vaccines in general. They will need to be moved quickly down the supply chain until it reaches its final intended destination. 

Naturally, this large international scale of operations come with a set of risks. Due to the current state of the air cargo industry, supply chains have a short period of time to re-establish or focus on their infrastructure to be able to handle the large volumes. The vaccine, being an item of high-demand, requires high standards of cargo security to mitigate against theft and other threats to ensure that it is not tampered with. Logistics providers and the many levels of the supply chain also have to make the necessary preparations to be able to handle larger capacities at a fast turn-around.


Despite the potential for global economic growth, the industry might have to deal with a colossal task in the near future: ensuring the efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. DHL Express, an express courier in Singapore that handles smooth international shipping, has extensive experience in handling medical shipments, with capabilities to transport pharmaceutical products under controlled environments door-to-door. Being an industry leader in global logistics, DHL plays an intimate role in connecting supply chains in the medical industry and delivering the vaccine to destinations across the globe.

The White Paper: Delivering Pandemic Resilience provides a detailed insight on how DHL and the logistics industry must work together with both public and private sectors to establish reliable and effective supply chains for the swift dispersion of the COVID-19 vaccine.

At DHL Express, we understand the significant role that we play in enabling supply chains and are able to contribute with the speed and security required in these urgent situations. Despite the ill-effects of COVID-19, there are many new possibilities opening up, but more importantly, businesses and industries are learning to create more resilient networks and supply chains, with enhanced security and contingency measures. 

If you would like to know more about DHL Express’s services, involvements, and how we are working toward supporting our customers and the community by offering fast and reliable service, talk to us!