The Pharma Network
In 2015 Alha Group was one of the first global operators to obtain IATA CEIV Pharma certification, the reference standard for the transport and management of pharmaceutical products that incorporates the GDP (Good Distribution Practices) guidelines and defines the best service levels for the air transport of pharmaceutical products.
The Alha Group's certified pharma network, which guarantees dedicated temperature-controlled areas, 24-hour monitoring, experience in managing large shipments of vaccines and close collaboration with airlines, freight forwarders and suppliers of refrigerated containers, is ready to handle all types of vaccine, whatever the temperature range required.
- Over the last decade, globally, the Air Cargo sector has developed a strong specialisation in the transport of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical products.
- The transport of vaccines is a regular activity for all specialised operators and is carried out according to precise procedures and management methods that guarantee the integrity of the product - from the production site to the distribution centres on the territory.
- In the air transport of vaccines, technological and packaging solutions are regularly used to ensure that the product is stored at a controlled temperature (even at extremely low temperatures) during all transport phases.
- The Italian cargo community has a solid network of specialised and certified operators who have been managing vaccine transport operations, even on a large scale, for years.
- The cargo terminals of Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino are fully structured to handle all types of vaccines, including vaccines for Covid-19.
Infrastructures and facilities
Alha operates at Malpensa and Fiumicino with a total of approximately 30,000 square metres of airport cargo terminal, 5,000 of which are temperature-controlled.
The Alha Pharma Centres at Malpensa and Fiumicino are both IATA CEIV Pharma certified, and offer storage possibilities in all temperature ranges provided for by air transport standards (+15°C/+25°C, +2°C/+8°C, -20°C). Both cargo terminals are structured to handle refrigerated containers in transit.
Alha also offers, both in Malpensa and Fiumicino, a fleet of CoolBoxes (refrigerated dollies for transport on board), which allow to create a protected connection between the pharma centre and the aircraft, guaranteeing optimal temperature conditions during all phases of management.
This equipment is an advanced solution for the management of pharmaceutical products and is only available in the most structured airports for the management of these shipments.
Transport requirements for vaccines
The transport requirements for vaccines are complex and variable, particularly with regard to temperature control. Depending on the type of vaccine, the temperature that must be guaranteed during transport and storage can vary from -80°C to -20°C or +2/+8°C.
- Vaccines are transported in certified refrigerated containers, which guarantee the stability of the internal temperature (product temperature) for a sufficient time to cover the entire duration of transport.
- 2. The use of refrigerated dollies (e.g. electric active containers, dry ice active containers or hybrid containers) allows to manage the transport in practically any environmental condition.
- 3. Refrigerated dollies are not opened at the airport, vaccines are not extracted.
- Some refrigerated containers can guarantee internal temperatures down to -80°C and are handled, during transport and at the airport, in the standard temperature ranges (-20°C, 2°C/8°C, 15°C/25°C), according to the operational specifications required from time to time.
Refrigeration containers differ in technology and require different interventions depending on the refrigeration system: mainly the recharging operations involve the addition of dry ice or connection to the electricity grid.
Vaccines must not stop at the airport; the airport operator must guarantee rapid transit times and minimise the processing time between unloading from the aircraft and loading onto the truck (for imports) and vice versa, for exports.
A chain of certified operators
Nowdays, the transport chain of pharmaceutical products, and in particular vaccines, is operated according to strict protocols and on qualified trade lanes: delicate shipments of very high value (not only commercial) such as vaccines, are entrusted by pharmaceutical companies exclusively to certified freight forwarders, airlines and cargo terminals.
A management by certified service providers following the usual channels of the drug supply chain minimises the possibility of congestion at airports, benefits from a strong organisational process based on risk management and offers the end consumer maximum protection regarding the integrity of the product. This management model follows the same model adopted for operations that are already carried out regularly at Italian airports, even with large-scale movements, particularly at Milan Malpensa.
From the production facility to the site where the vaccine is distributed to the population, transport operations involve different operators, each in charge of different segments of the service. It is fundamental the full professionalism of each involved operator, who must be able to count on a certified management system, adequately trained staff, suitable means, dedicated procedures and experience in the management of this type of product.
Alha has been working for months on planning activities to prepare the entire organization for the management of vaccines and treatments for the Covid-19. In order to cope with the expected high operational stress situations, in the event of peaks in the mass distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, specific business continuity and crisis management plans are being developed, which are constantly updated according to the information recorded on a daily basis.