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JKIA readies for vaccine boom

By Reuters | February 23rd 2021
The newly launched Astral Aviation Cargo Plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi on Friday January 21, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya’s main airport in Nairobi will find it easy to switch from handling fruit to importing vaccines because it already has extensive cold storage, a leading logistics executive says.

Farm commodities such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which must be kept cold before being loaded onto planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, are among Kenya’s main exports.

“The fortunate thing about Jomo Kenyatta is it has the biggest capacity within the East Africa region because of the nature of our trade,” Daniel Tanui, managing director of Mitchell Cotts, one of the biggest logistics companies in the country, told Reuters.

“Those horticulture facilities are refrigerated. It is easy to convert and use for an emergency.”

Companies and governments around the world are racing to establish cold-chain storage and delivery systems for vaccines which must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures and can only be kept in a standard fridge for up to five days.

Mitchell Cotts has applied for international certification by health authorities to handle the imports, Tanui said, adding that it can handle vaccines which need to be kept as cold as negative-30 degrees.

The company will modify its existing pharma unit at its $25 million (Sh2.7 billion) facility at the airport, adding extra cabinets to hold the vaccines, and enhancing security.  


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