Kenya Airways now among carriers approved to ferry COVID-19 vaccines

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Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. /Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Kenya Airways will now ferry the COVID-19 vaccine after UNICEF included the airline in its list of 15 carriers contracted to handle the work.

Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya’s capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. Picture taken April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

As reported by the Business Daily, communication between UNICEF and the government indicates the change in tune followed high level of lobbying by the government, to have the carrier get a chunk of the vaccine cargo business amid slump in passenger travel.

The Ministry of Transport had questioned why the airline missed out on the deal.

“KQ is now among the carriers in UNICEF humanitarian airfreight initiative and as such would be eligible to carry COVAX vaccines and other essential supplies to different countries and we have already signed the MoU,” reads the communication.

KQ, recently converted its Boeing 787 passenger planes into freighters. The airline last year launched a modern pharma cargo facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The inclusion of the national carrier in the UNICEF list brings the number of African airlines participating in the program to three.

In Africa, only Ethiopian Airline and Astral Aviation- a Nairobi-based freighter had been put in the initial list.

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.

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

UNICEF and Gavii are paying for the vaccines for Africa with the former also overseeing procurement and logistics.

(With input from Business Daily)

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