China is developing cross-border medical cold chain facilities to prepare for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, with developing nations on the priority list.
China is joining the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines with five candidates from four different companies going through phase-3 trials. During the pandemic, China’s logistics industry has already played a significant role in transporting medical supplies globally. However, the transportation of vaccines needs a smooth cold chain logistics system to maintain the required temperature throughout the full supply chain. Compared to some other developed countries, the cold chain industry in China is still in the developing stage. Nevertheless, the cold chain industry in China shows significant growth, increasing from a total market value of 94.4 billion RMB (12.4 billion USD) in 2012 to 310.1 billion RMB (47.5 billion USD) in 2020, a CAGR of 16.3%. It is projected to reach 512.1 billion RMB (78.4 billion USD) in 2026, a projected CAGR of 9.4% between 2020 and 2026.
Recently, the industry took a step further to enhance its cold-chain capabilities to transport temperature-controlled medicine, including COVID-19 vaccines. Cainiao, a logistics company under the Chinese giant Alibaba, has cooperated with Ethiopian Airlines to open the first regular cold-chain air freight service in China, which will enable the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and the Middle East. Besides, Cainiao also partnered with Shenzhen International Airport, a certified unit for pharmaceutical logistics by the International Air Transport Association. The airport has several climate-controlled rooms with real-time temperature monitoring systems, occupying a total area of 350 square meters. From there, vaccines will be shipped to the cargo terminal in Ethiopia which is also equipped with temperature control systems. This end-to-end cold chain route can handle temperatures as low as minus 23 degrees Celsius.
Another Chinese logistics company, SF Express, is also working with suppliers to help transport vaccine candidates and semi-finished items for clinical trials between China and other countries. It has prepared over 200 specialized vehicles for transporting cold chain medical products, cold storage in 11 cities across the country, and temperature-controlled boxes for the COVID-19 vaccines.
In conclusion, the effort to build an end-to-end cross-border cold chain solution to support vaccine transportation of Chinese logistics companies is a remarkable achievement of the industry driven by the goodwill to make vaccines accessible and affordable to developing countries. Amidst the current pandemic, China has quickly grasped the opportunity to exponentially grow its cold chain industry while positively contributing to the eradication of the COVID-19.
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