MONTREAL (Reuters) – Airports around the world are being advised to step up security efforts to protect COVID-19 vaccine shipments amid police warnings of potential targeting from criminal networks. The recommendation from a global airports body comes as pharmaceutical companies and airlines are carrying out the largest logistical operation of its kind to distribute vaccines designed to combat the global pandemic.
As part of a broader advisory bulletin on vaccine distribution recently sent to members, Airports Council International recommended affected airports liaise with local authorities and conduct risk assessments on shipments given potential threats.
The bulletin was posted Friday on the group’s website, a spokesman said.
“The sensitive nature of the vaccines, the high level of demand there will be for obtaining them and the initial short supply has the potential to generate some attention by persons or groups with malicious intent,” it said.
“Consideration should be given to increased protection of these goods and/or the facilities that will house them. In many cases, this requires coordination with local security authorities.”
The Interpol global police co-ordination agency recently warned that organized criminal networks could be targeting COVID-19 vaccines, possibly through the infiltration or disruption of supply chains.
The bulletin also advised airports to consider safety precautions given the use of large volumes of dry ice required to meet the vaccines’ ultra-cold requirements. The transportation of dry ice is regulated as it is considered to be a “dangerous good.”
Discussions are underway at the United Nations aviation agency to “increase the volume of dry ice that may be transported in a single aircraft, provided strict protocols are followed,” it noted.
A vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE has begun to be administered to people in the United States and Britain and a second vaccine, from Moderna Inc, is expected to win regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within days.