The first consignment containing vials of Covishield vaccines left Serum Institute of India for Pune airport early this morning, four days ahead of the nationwide inoculation drive against COVID-19.
Amid tight security, three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute gates shortly before 5 am and left for Pune airport, from where the vaccines will be flown across India. The trucks carried 478 boxes of the vaccines, each box weighing 32 kg, news agency PTI reported quoting an unnamed official. A ”puja” was performed before the vehicles left the facility.
From the airport, the vaccines will be dispatched to 13 locations across the country. “The first flight will leave for Delhi from Pune airport,” Sandip Bhosale, SB Logistics, the logistics team which is handling air transport of Covishield vaccine from Pune International Airport was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The vaccines will be flown from Pune in eight commercial flights, including two cargo flights, according to PTI. The first cargo flight will cover Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Bhubaneswar and the second cargo flight will go to Kolkata and Guwahati, PTI reported quoting a source.
The consignment for Mumbai will leave by road.
The government plans to purchase a total of 5.60 crore doses of Serum Institute’s Covishield vaccine by April 2021, at ₹ 200 per dose. While 1.10 crore doses of Covishield were purchased on Monday, there is a “commitment” to purchase another 4.50 crore doses by April 2021.
The Hindustan Lifecare Limited or HLL, a Central enterprise, is the agency which will buy the vaccines from both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
Two vaccines — the Covishield developed by the Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — received emergency use approval from the Drug Controller of India earlier this month. Both are two-dose vaccines, which will have to be administered at a 28-day gap.
The rollout of the vaccines has been scheduled for January 16. The government has said that 30 crore people – starting with health workers and frontline workers like the police, civil defence personnel and sanitation workers – will be administered the vaccine in the first phase.
After them, the other vulnerable group, people who are over the age of 50 years and those who suffer from co-morbidities including diabetes and hypertension, will also be administered the vaccine.
With inputs from PTI