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PAL, AirAsia all set to transport vaccines

AirAsia and flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) have expressed their readiness to distribute vaccines and help the country’s economy get back on its feet.

“PAL has expressed to the Philippine government its capability and readiness to transport vaccines to airports in the Philippines from various parts of the globe,” said the airline’s spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

PAL joined the Simulation Exercise for Covid19 Vaccine Handling, along with the National Task Force on Vaccine Rollout on Tuesday. The simulation exercise covered the arrival in Manila of Philippine Airlines flight PR5655 from Riyadh at 10:10 a.m., the unloading of vaccines from the A330’s cargo compartment, the loading of the “shipment” into cold storage vans and its transport to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) warehouse facility.

There will also be a simulation exercise on the transport of vaccines to various hospitals.

The flight’s arrival at Bay 49 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 and the handling by the PAL team and ground handlers of the vaccine “shipment” were witnessed by government officials led by National Task Force against Covid-19 chief Carlito G. Galvez Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.

Meanwhile, Air Asia said it has committed to participate in the handling of Covid-19 vaccines. The arrival of at least 5.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines is expected in the first quarter, according to Galvez.

The Food and Drug Administration last month approved the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines. Other pharmaceutical companies are now in the process of applying for the EUA.

AirAsia has applied for regulatory approval as a Dangerous Goods carrier. While waiting for the approval, the low cost carrier will also secure special authorization from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to proactively participate in the possible roll out of the vaccines to far-flung provinces.

To guarantee the safe and proper handling and transportation of the vaccines, AirAsia has embarked on a technical training and engineering intervention to support the vaccine cold chain. Its personnel were trained on the preparation—from ground to cargo handling of the vaccines and its cooling devices.

Such precision and coordination is important to ensure that the vaccines, which are perishable and considered a biological hazard, remain in sub-zero temperatures to preserve and prevent them from breaking down.

The company has also readied Teleport—AirAsia’s logistics venture and its newest door-to-door delivery system to help in the delivery of the vaccines. Teleport is now widely available in 12 key cities in the country including Bacolod, Cebu, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga.

AirAsia Philippines CEO Ricky Isla said, “AirAsia is always ready to assist the government in this huge humanitarian undertaking.”

“Aside from our existing route network, we are committed to mount charter flights to provincial airports which can accommodate wide-body aircrafts such as the Airbus 320 to fast-track vaccine distribution efforts.”

He said part of the company’s corporate social responsibility is to ensure that communities see and feel that there is hope for them to return to some semblance of normalcy and start dreaming big again.

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