KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — The challenges behind the special flight carrying the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), this morning were related by MAB Kargo Sdn Bhd (MASkargo) chief executive officer Ibrahim Mohamed Salleh.

He said among the challenges faced in handling the Covid-19 vaccine included vaccine management procedures that required careful planning to ensure smooth movement from each location.

“We have been preparing since August last year while the vaccine was still in the development stage. Arrangements have been underway pending completion of the trial.

“We need to take into account several factors including the temperature, the speed required during the vaccine handling process and the sublimation rate if dry ice is used,” he said when interviewed by Bernama TV in a special programme Malaysia Terima Vaksin Covid-19 (Malaysia Receives Covid-19 Vaccine) which was broadcast live today.

Ibrahim said for field operations, they needed to take into account the time and speed in handling the Covid-19 vaccine, because the vaccine needs to be administered as soon as possible and cannot be stored like other vaccines or medicines for clearance procedures by the Customs Department.

To ensure smooth handling operations, he said MASkargo, the cargo arm of national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), worked with other agencies including the Customs Department for the documentation process, as well as with the manufacturers and freight forwarders involved before the vaccine was handed over to the Health Ministry (MOH).

“This requires careful preparation and a little fine-tuning to meet the handling specifications of the vaccine. Our employees are also trained because MASkargo has a long experience in managing vaccine transport, not only the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine (earlier for example), but also polio and diphtheria vaccines,” he said.

Commenting on the handling of other vaccines such as Sinovac and AstraZeneca, he said MASKargo was ready with adequate training for the handling of the vaccine.

The vaccine journey started from the Pfizer plant in Belgium with a flight carrying the vaccine departing from Puurs and transiting at Leipzig Halle Airport before heading to Singapore for distribution to other Asia Pacific countries including Malaysia.

Upon landing, the process of transferring the vaccine, which was placed in the unit load device (ULD), from the cargo section of the aircraft to a truck belonging to logistics company DHL Express was carried out at the Advanced Cargo Centre, KLIA. — Bernama