Both global and regional partners forms a core pillar of The HOPE Consortium

Comprising of leading entities, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Ports, Etihad Cargo, Rafed, SkyCell, and Maqta Gateway, as well as a wide body of global logistics players, The HOPE Consortium is developing capacity to transport, store, and distribute 18 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses per annum to countries around the world. The partners are offering a complete end-to-end vaccine delivery solution covering both the physical movement of the vaccines in parallel with a digital solution monitoring and reporting on the supply chain progress and compliance. This means that the Hope Consortium can deliver vaccines from the manufacturing plant to those in need, anywhere in the world. Robert Sutton, Head of Logistics Cluster at Abu Dhabi Ports in an exclusive interview with Ritika Arora Bhola, informs how the Consortium has developed an extensive and integrated end-to-end supply chain solution also “future-proofing” its effort, thereby helping eliminate vaccine wastage and ensuring that every vaccine counts.

Take us through Hope Consortium’s worldwide operations and mission. How successfully are objectives moving towards achieving the ultimate goal?

This is an extraordinary crisis and requires a collective effort to enhance community resilience. It is for this reason that The HOPE Consortium was launched as one of the largest, most integrated and collaborative logistical efforts to deliver vital vaccines to the global community. The initiative aims to tackle the various logistical and infrastructural challenges of global vaccine distribution as well as the implementation of appropriate deployment strategies, plans and policies. The founding partners are—Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Ports, Etihad Cargo, Rafed, Maqta Gateway, and SkyCell.

We realise that each country, region, continent have its own logistical and storage-based limitations and barriers. The HOPE Consortium has therefore streamlined their offerings through its partners to provide end-to-end solutions, reaching over 170 destinations around the world. Additionally, we have chosen Abu Dhabi as a strategic base of operations due to its geographical position to reach anywhere in the MENA region, Africa and Asia in just 1-5 hours flight time. We have assembled partners and founders who are experts in the field of transportation and logistics—to form the cornerstone of our operational goals. In addition to the six founding partners, we are working with specialist logistics partners—Agility, DB Schenker, DHL, FedEx, Aramex, Bolloré Logistics, MICCO Logistics, UPS, Hellmann, Kuehne + Nagel, and RSA Global.

So far, leveraging our end-to-end supply chain, we have delivered over 47 million vaccine doses in 35 countries and further expanding our resources to handle the storage and the distribution of 18 billion doses per annum. This has been achieved via a unique and collaborative approach—linking both the physical and digital supply chain from production to patient.

With the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive underway, how effectively is Hope Consortium ensuring safety and quality of the product and transparency across the overall supply chain?

We work with both global and regional partners and each of them forms a core pillar of The HOPE Consortium’s complete end-to-end supply chain solution—which ensures the integrity of our operations at all stages of the process.

Abu Dhabi Ports operates an advanced 19,000 sq mt GDP and Dept of Health certified cold and ultra-cold storage centres—one of the largest in the region. Capable of storing vaccines at temperatures from +8°C to -80°C with expandable capacity to hold an excess of 120 million vaccine doses at any given time. The entity has also deployed a specialised fleet of logistics vehicles, operated by its wholly owned subsidiary MICCO logistics, helping deliver vaccines for local inoculation, and outbound shipments.  From an aviation and air freight perspective, we have chosen Etihad Cargo which is the first airline in the Middle East to be IATA CEIV certified. The carrier offers direct connections to its global network of trusted partners utilising its extensive fleet of cargo aircrafts.

We are also employing the latest shipment tracking technologies with the support of Maqta Gateway, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports and a leader in the development of integrated and digital global trade solutions. Their Blockchain-enabled solution—mUnity—is instrumental in ensuring vaccines are digitally managed, tracked, and delivered. There is a real threat of nefarious actors seeking to profit from the disruption of vaccine supply chains, whether from hacking attempts, counterfeit vaccines or theft of data and supplies. mUnity’s Blockchain capabilities addresses all these risks by providing tamper-proof real-time updates on all the storage and handling environment parameters along the supply chain. The system features robust end-to-end visibility of every vaccine, starting from the manufacturing facility to when they arrive at vaccination centres in the UAE and worldwide destinations. Based on the availability of data, the system has the capability to track individual vaccine doses up until the time of the administration of the dose.

Furthermore, our partner SkyCell supports the efficient storage and distribution of vaccines through a combination of hybrid containers, tracking software, and risk management services. All of this is made possible through a dedicated container fleet with a service centre located in Abu Dhabi to make sure that The HOPE Consortium has dedicated resources to help bring vaccines from the world for the world.

Given the bottlenecks in global cold chain infrastructure what you see as the main existing challenges?

Distributing the vaccines to hard-to-reach communities as part of the final-mile is a monumental task and one of the most persistent bottlenecks we face. We have been gearing our operations to tackle this through the various solutions our partners offer. The logistical and infrastructural challenges that lie ahead require modern and innovative solutions and as such, the appropriate deployment strategies, plans, and policies need to be in place. The HOPE Consortium acts as a global logistics facilitator offering the appropriate country-specific solutions through its pool of resources and partners as per demand.

Another point of concern for this kind of operation is vaccine waste. All vaccine distribution programmes on a global scale have faced the fundamental risk of losing precious shipments of vaccines due to complexities throughout the supply chain—our planning, deployment of technology and ability to control the velocity of movement has a significant impact on mitigating these risks. The HOPE Consortium operates under a unique hub & spoke model that allows it to store large quantities of vaccines at its facilities—positioned closer to the demand points—and align both the speed and quantity ofdeliveries to the ability of recipient countries and communities to absorb these supplies safely. This storage model is a key to our operational success at a time when global demand greatly outstrips global supply, ensuring that every vaccine counts. Again, this is where we turn to technology and use our systems to monitor the consumption of vaccines in order to ensure that the replenishment strategy is aligned to the vaccination strategy.

Vaccine’s temperature-based requirements also pose another challenge in terms of storage. To counter this, the HOPE Consortium is utilising advanced cold and ultra-cold storage facility at KIZAD (Khalifa Industrial Zone, Abu Dhabi) which enables the Consortium’s supply chain to resolve this issue by acting as hub for storage of vaccines destined for international destinations. The 19,000 sq mt facility can hold over 120 million vaccines of any type and at any time—between temperatures ranging from +8°C to -80°C. The hub operates 24×7 and its sophisticated security and monitoring systems ensure compliance and security of the vital products at all times.

Your goal is to facilitate global vaccine delivery and to build capacity to deliver 18 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Are there any strategies adopted to successfully accomplish the task?

The HOPE Consortium has recently announced that it is extending its value proposition to include in-country vaccination services with the aim of accelerating global immunisation and eliminating vaccine wastage. The new solution is unique in the COVID-19 immunisation space as it combines end-to-end vaccine delivery with rapid on-ground deployment of medical and logistics experts, staff, and equipment. The combined service will enable countries and communities with limited medical and logistical capacities to absorb the delivered vaccine supplies and inoculate their populations safely and efficiently, with minimal disruption to operations of local health delivery services.

So, the ultimate success of The HOPE Consortium relies on which key factors and global best practices?

The pandemic has shown that in critical times, our governments, industries, and people can successfully come together in the most unpredictable ways to save human lives. Our success lies within the prospects of international collaboration, cooperation, and optimisation of global vaccine distribution channels, providing broad global access to all.

Additionally, The HOPE Consortium is leveraging Abu Dhabi’s unique capabilities and strategic position as a gateway to two-thirds of the global population. Our collective goal is to operate the largest technology-led supply chain solution in the world capable of delivering millions of vaccines for human well-being.

What are the objectives placing Abu Dhabi as a potential global life sciences and logistics hub?

Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 is a tremendously complex task—for vaccine manufacturers and distributors worldwide as well as governments and NGOs. Abu Dhabi’s logistical capabilities, connectivity and strategic location provide a unique advantage as a central hub for vaccine distribution to support the global response to the pandemic.

A fast becoming global life sciences and logistics hub with extensive investments across healthcare manufacturing, R&D, logistics and infrastructure, Abu Dhabi provides a one-stop solution for COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

To further cement its commitment to healthcare, science and medicine, Abu Dhabi has recently inaugurated a new factory for the purpose of manufacturing vaccines, in a joint venture between Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42). In the meantime, The HOPE Consortium’s efforts aim to showcase Abu Dhabi’s potential in becoming the central life sciences hub for the global response to the pandemic.

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