The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been flown into Singapore from Belgium onboard a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 freighter.
The shipment from Brussels was brought to Singapore onboard flight SQ7979 on Monday evening, and is believed to be the first COVID vaccine shipment to arrive in Asia.
Logistics services firm DHL said the vaccines came direct from a manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium, and were protected by security escorts as they made their way to Brussels International Airport.
The vaccine was packed in dry ice in thermal shipping boxes, which are designed to keep the vials at -70 degrees Celsius, colder than Antarctica in winter.
The boxes were then loaded onto a SIA’s Boeing 747-400 freighter, departing Brussels on Sunday night, before arriving on the tarmac at Changi Airport at 7.36pm.
The vaccine shipment was then transported to SATS’s cold-chain facility, Coolport, for subsequent storage and ground transportation.
Singapore Airlines reportedly conducted a successful shipment trial in the days before the real shipment was loaded.
The trial was run on 19 December, to ensure the smooth and safe delivery of the thermal shippers, also known as the cool boxes, used for the trial.
The internal temperature of each box was also actively tracked on an end-to-end basis, and the sublimation rate of the dry ice in the cool boxes was also measured.
Chin Yau Seng, senior vice president – cargo, SIA, said: “The delivery of this first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to Singapore is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19, and we are honoured to be able to play a part in this. It also served to demonstrate SIA’s and the Singapore air hub’s readiness for the very important job of transporting and distributing COVID-19 vaccines internationally.”
It comes as airlines and airports were urged to stay on high alert and increase security efforts to protect COVID-19 vaccine shipments, as reports suggest vaccines are being targeted by criminal enterprises.
Within days of the first COVID-19 vaccines being approved and delivered in the UK and US, reports surfaced of criminal networks attempting to sell on the inoculations on the dark web, with aim to profit off the global demand for vaccines.