The DHL chief accused governments of not adequately preparing for the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines, attributing the distribution delays to a lack of local storage and delivery solutions.
“Overall, we haven’t seen enough predictions of how the ‘last mile’ will work,” Frank Appel, managing director of Deutsche Post DHL, told the Financial Times. “This is the main bottleneck – how do you get it to the patient?”
The company, which operates more than 260 aircraft, is among those contracted to deliver the BioNTech / Pfizer jab. It reorganized its shipping facilities across Germany to handle dry ice and keep the product stable at around minus 70 ° C during transport.
While Mr Appel admitted that managing dry ice was “a challenge for local doctors,” the former neurobiologist insisted the infrastructure could easily be built in large parking lots to facilitate local distribution. , affirming: “It is not rocket science.”
The Bonn-based group has warned that logistics service providers will need to increase their delivery capacity by 10 billion doses of vaccine globally over the next two years, which it says will require 15,000 flights, as well as 200,000 pallets. shipping and 15m of cooling boxes.
Some countries, such as the United States, have also struggled to recruit enough trained vaccine administrators.
However, Mr. Appel insisted that “the limit will always be the production [of vaccines] and not logistics ”.
The volume of vaccine deliveries so far was “minimal compared to what we move each year,” he added.
DHL, which operates 250 flights per night, will always give “top priority” to vaccine shipments, he added. But if the capacity of logistics groups is exhausted, parked passenger planes could be enlisted to help.
“In the desert, there are probably 3,000 jumbo jets waiting there,” he said. “We would activate them.”
He expressed frustration with the lack of attention by governments to the challenges of distributing the vaccine to patients, especially in developing countries.
“We have been planning since February,” he said, as politicians “were still watching what was happening next week, instead of looking further one way or another and saying,” we know there might be a vaccine, what’s the best way to prepare for that ‘”.
In September, DHL released a study warning that two-thirds of the world’s population would likely not have easy access to a coronavirus vaccine that needs to be stored in freezing temperatures.
Mr Appel said he had sent it “to many governments” and “some responded and some did not”.
The executive also said Deutsche Post DHL, which employs 550,000 people worldwide, would not follow Lidl’s decision to pay staff to be vaccinated.
“We would never encourage people,” he said. “We prefer [convince staff] by being models.
“I would go tomorrow to lead by example, but then people would say, ‘Oh, CEOs are getting better treatment.’