PUNE: With the first phase of Covid inoculations less than a week away, at least 80% of India’s lead vaccine — Covishield — will be moved out of Pune by air, it has emerged.
Officials said transport of vials is expected to begin by Monday or Tuesday.
Rahul Agarwal, co-founder of Mumbai-based Kool-Ex Cold Chain Limited, the firm contracted to transport vaccines nationally, said Covishield — made by Serum Institute of India — will be first moved mainly by air.
He said, “At this moment, Serum has not received a go-ahead from the Centre on movement of the vaccine. But things will really start to move by Monday or latest by Tuesday. We have been asked by Serum to be on stand-by. Initially, we expect 70% to 80% of transportation to happen by air. There will be some road movement too. We have more than 300 trucks.”
Movement of the vaccine out of Pune airport has been held up for nearly a week now. “Transportation must start latest by Tuesday or the vaccine will not reach centres on time” Agarwal added.
A senior officer from Pune police said it’s very likely the vaccine movement will start from Tuesday.
“We will be providing security cover to the vaccine trucks as per instructions from the state government. We expect transportation to start from Tuesday. But it can start earlier too,” the officer said.
On Friday, airline authorities and representatives from SII said the transportation process had been delayed by around 48 hours. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, also refuted claims that pricing negotiations between the vaccine maker and the government were responsible for the delay.
Sources had told TOI last week that 20 million doses are set to be rolled out during the initial phase.
Meanwhile, cargo handlers of airlines at Pune airport said they have received briefings on how the vaccines should be loaded onto waiting aircraft.
“There have been many discussions over the past week on how to handle the cargo. According to protocols, which will be monitored by senior officials, vaccines will be loaded onto planes after the luggage. This plan will ensure the vials are offloaded first at the destination airport,” a cargo handler with a major airline said.
He added that all airlines have been asked to form special teams to load and offload the vaccine vials.