April 29, 2021 – For the first time, the Royal Navy assisted the RAF and Strategic Command in a 6-day operation this month to the isolated South Atlantic island community.
An RAF Voyager aircraft made the 8,000 mile trip from RAF Brize Norton to the Falkland Islands, via Dakar in Senegal to refuel, before HMS Forth sailed the 2,000 mile voyage to Tristan da Cunha.
Delivered on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Crown Agents, enough doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have now been delivered to the island to cover the entire adult population.
The remote volcanic island has fortunately had no confirmed cases of Covid-19. However, with a population of just over 200 and with its nearest neighbour over 1,500 miles away, the island would have faced a variety of challenges should Covid-19 have hit.
The delivery, which arrived on 21 April, will ensure the island’s entire adult population who wish to can be immunized against coronavirus.
The operation was a huge logistical challenge, made more complex by the need to store and transport the vaccine at an ambient temperature so that the vaccines remained at between 2⁰C and 8⁰C throughout its transfer.
Vaccines were stored in specialized fridges on board HMS Forth, with the temperature checked regularly by the crew. They were then moved from ship-to-shore inside a temperature controlled container, before being safely stored in the fridges at Tristan da Cunha hospital.
This is the first time the Royal Navy has assisted with the transportation of vaccines, ensuring the vital doses were onboard the ship within 90 minutes of the RAF aircraft touching down in the Falklands.
HMS Forth is currently deployed in the South Atlantic, and has patrolled the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha during the course of the last month.
Earlier this year, the RAF transported vaccines to Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island in support of the FCDO’s vaccine rollout to the Overseas Territories.
Tristan da Cunha belongs to the most remote groups of inhabited islands in the world. The island itself has a long-standing connection with the UK Armed Forces dating back to World War Two, when the whole island was commissioned by the Royal Navy as a U-Boat monitoring outpost and a signals intelligence station named HMS ATLANTIC ISLE.