National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has now been included in the list of carriers for the Covid-19 vaccine after the government intervened.
According to a communication quoted by a local daily, Unicef made a U-turn and signed an MoU with the government of Kenya.
“KQ is now among the carriers in Unicef humanitarian airfreight initiative and as such would be eligible to carry Covax vaccines and other essential supplies to different countries and we have already signed the MoU,” reads the communication.
Only two airlines from Africa had signed an agreement with the United Nations (UN) for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.
UN had listed 16 airlines that had signed an agreement to transport over 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines globally between March and December 2021.
The two African airlines included Nairobi-based Astral Aviation and Ethiopian Airways.
Other airlines include AirBridgeCargo, Air France/KLM, Emirates SkyCargo, Brussels Airlines, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, IAG Cargo, Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
KQ was left out despite launching a modern pharma cargo facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as it eyed vaccine distribution business.
Also, the carrier recently became one of the first airliners to convert their Boeing 787 Dreamliner into a “Preighter” (passenger aircraft used as a freighter), targeting the cargo business following reduced number of passengers.
The UN targets to supply 20 percent of Africa’s Covid-19 vaccines, with UNICEF and Gavii paying for the vaccines while the UNICEF is doing the procurement and logistics.
The initiative is run under COVAX Facility, a global solution to the Covid-19 pandemic that ensures participating countries have fair access to vaccines, regardless of their income level.