Alibaba's Cainiao says it is in talks with Chinese vaccine makers over logistics

FILE PHOTO: Cainiao's logo, Alibaba's logistics unit, is seen at the warehouse in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Alibaba Group’s Cainiao is in talks with Chinese vaccine makers over COVID-19 vaccine logistics, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, as the company launched a partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to transport medicine to the Middle East and Africa.

“We are currently in discussion with some domestic COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and international organizations on cooperation over COVID-19 vaccine logistics,” the spokeswoman said.

Cainiao, a logistics company, underpins delivery for Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplace, and it says it aims to deliver across the globe in 72 hours. The spokeswoman did not name the vaccine makers.

The company and Ethiopian Airlines launched a special cold chain air freight service to transport temperature-sensitive medicines from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen to Africa and the rest of the world via Dubai and Addis Abba.

“This is China’s first cross-border medical cold chain route to be operated regularly and is certified to transport temperature-controlled medicines including COVID-19 vaccines,” Cainiao said in a statement.

China has several vaccine developers running the final stages of clinical trials to determine the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates. They include Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSinoBio and China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

Cold chain storage and transportation have become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 1.5 million people. The promising Pfizer vaccine, for instance, is required to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai. Editing by Gerry Doyle