Covid 19 Delta outbreak: DHL delivers 1 billion vaccines around the world

DHL is delivering loads of Pfizer vaccines up to weekly into New Zealand now the Government’s delayedCovid-19 vaccination programme has gained momentum.

The logistics company has just hit an important milestone globally, one billion vaccine deliveries to 160 countries since last December out of the near six billion shots administered around the world.

The company is not disclosing how many Pfizer doses it has delivered to New Zealand (airlines have also delivered some) but says it can get them from manufacturing plants in Europe to destinations in this country in as little as three days.

DHL Express NZ country manager Mark Foy said the vaccine comes out of Europe on dedicated freight aircraft to connect with Singapore-Sydney flights and then across the Tasman to Auckland.

It is transported in thermal shippers which are boxes filled with dry ice to keep the temperature around minus 70C to minus 80C.

There is aGPS tracker in each package to monitor the shipment and also the temperature gauge.

”We have specialists all around the world trained to do what’s needed to keep that dry ice temperature so the packaging remains constant,” said Foy.

”There’s not a significant difference between the different types ofhealthcare products that we do move but some of them have unique requirements.”

The vaccines arrive at DHL distribution centres in Auckland and Christchurch and are then taken to vaccination sites.

“I think from a logistics perspective the vaccine distribution globally has been very strong, and being able to get the vaccines out all over the world very quickly,” said Foy.

The impact of lockdown

The move up the alert levels following August’s border failure had an immediate impact on DHL’s courier business.

“It was pretty similar to last time.What happens when we go into level 4 is we see an immediate decline because most businesses closed, and only essential businesses are open so … sort of roughly for us it’s about a 30 per cent decline,” said Foy.

Following that brief shock to demand came the surge.

“What we’re seeing at the moment our inbound shipments coming in from the rest of the world are up about 50 per cent on last year and up about 50 per cent where they were pre-lockdown so this is a real Christmas peak-type surge. ”

People confined to their homes (which remains the case for many in Auckland) bought clothes, beauty products and electronics.

Figures from Slice Digital show restrictions on movements and shopping activity in Auckland and across the country have seen more and more New Zealanders turn to the internet for shopping as never before.

Slice partners with over 150 online retailers in New Zealand. Its numbers show traffic was up 78 per cent in the second half of August when the latest lockdown came into force compared to the first half of the month.

Foy said DHL’s air deliveries into New Zealand hadn’t been badly affected by global supply chain problems.

“We haven’t had any significant issues [with] New Zealand. There are some parts of the world where occasionally there are issues so we just work through those as they come up, but so farthrough this lockdown period it has been fine.”

Low traffic volumes during lockdown helped speed up deliveries around New Zealand cities.

“I’ve got to say the couriersare finding the empty streets very good in terms of getting the numbers of items delivered.”

Distribution centres had not been badly affected by staff having to be isolated through being contacts with those with Covid or places of interest.

“The biggest impact for us is the safety protocols around social distancing and running split shifts,” says Foy.

The firm employed about 400 staff in New Zealand and it also has contract drivers.

During the last 12 months business had grown quickly.

“That allows us to invest in the [air] network and the fleet on the ground here in New Zealand.”

Freight had moved from constrained sea operations to standard air freight and then express deliveries.

“We certainly see that there are challenges around sea freightand that’s meaning people are moving to where they can get their product in the timely manner that they would like, and that’s not just New Zealand.”

Freight prices had stabilised during the pandemic but were “nowhere near” what they were before Covid hit.

“There’s a long way to go and I assume that will not change until we see the commercial aviation come back with capacity.”

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