Nairobi airport ready to switch from fruit to vaccines

18 February 2021 - 12:19 By Reuters
Jomo Kenyatta airport has the facilities to handle importation of Covid-19 vaccines as it has extensive cold storage infrastructure. File photo.
Jomo Kenyatta airport has the facilities to handle importation of Covid-19 vaccines as it has extensive cold storage infrastructure. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

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,” said Daniel Tanui, MD of Mitchell Cotts, one of the biggest logistics companies in the country.

“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 -30 degrees.

The company will modify its existing pharma unit at its $25m (R364m) facility at the airport, adding extra cabinets to hold the vaccines, and enhancing security.

“When we designed this, we did not have in mind that a pandemic like Covid will be there and the number of vaccines that will come,” Tanui said.


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