'We're ready': Schiphol airport gears up for chilled vaccine cargos
Pfizer's vaccine is transported at -80C in small cool boxes holding about 5,000 doses which must be kept packed in dry ice until shortly before use. Moderna's candidate is suitable for the larger "active" containers which can take 30,000 doses.
The vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is stable at normal fridge temperatures of 2C to 8C so it has more transport options.
Kuijn estimated that while vaccines will begin and end their journeys in refrigerated trucks, at least 30% will be flown to their destinations.
Schiphol is the second biggest hub for pharmaceutical products in Europe after Frankfurt so it is expected to be both a staging ground for vaccines from India, Italy or the United States, and a departure point for vaccines made in Europe.
Some other vaccines being developed in China are also stable in normal fridges and Kuijn reckons only a minority COVID-19 shots will need to be transported frozen.
Air France-KLM currently operates 537 flights a week to about 100 destination in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. It is likely that Franco-Dutch airline will be a major carrier to African countries, given its network.
Kuijn said bottlenecks at Schiphol were unlikely, and while containers would be in high demand, he did not expect shortages as different vaccines will come available at different times.
"The first ones will probably come in December, January, and from there on new vaccines will be approved," he said.
The KLM Cargo warehouse at Schiphol has four cold storage areas for pharmaceuticals and a fifth will be ready in January.
"The bigger containers can carry up to 30,000 doses of the vaccine," said Paul Crombach, program manager of KLM's "cool chain" programme and the head of the team preparing for the mass transport of COVID-19 vaccines.
"We knew we're going to have to transport a lot of the vaccine ... but we have space as you can see," he said, gesturing to the vast warehouse behind him decked out with conveyor belts and robotic lifting arms.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by David Clarke)