After a long wait for the coronavirus vaccine roll out in India, the first Covishield vaccine movement began on Tuesday, January 12 from Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII).
The Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri announced via Twitter that Air India, Go Air, SpiceJet and IndiGo will operate nine flights to transport 56.5 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pune to 13 cities across the country.
Three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute’s gates shortly before 5 am and left for Pune airport, from where the vaccines were flown across India. The consignment bound for Mumbai left by road. Trucks belonging to Kool-ex Cold Chain were being used to ferry the vaccine stocks from SII.
The first flight carrying Covishield vaccine arrived in Delhi from Pune around 10 AM. Spicejet’s flight SG 8937 ferryied the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to Delhi.
SpiceJet carried multiple vaccine consignments to different Indian cities including Guwahati (276,000 doses), Kolkata (996,000 doses), Hyderabad (372,000 doses), Bhubaneswar (480,000 doses), Bengaluru (648,000 doses), Patna (552,000 doses), and Vijayawada (408,000 doses) through the day.
Air India tweeted that it carried the first consignment of 276,000 vaccine doses weighing 700 kilograms from Pune to Ahmedabad the same day.
Bengaluru International Airport reported 54 boxes consisting of approximately 650,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived from Pune at 11:45 am on Tuesday.
GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) also handled the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines. The shipment arrived at the cargo terminal carried by the SpiceJet flight SG7466 at 11:30 am from Pune. The consignment consisting of 31 boxes of Covishield vaccine were offloaded from the aircraft parked in the adjoining dedicated cargo apron and swiftly taken to the vaccine storage and handling areas in the GHAC Terminal. The Task Force ensured the quick movement of the vaccine through the domestic inbound section to the reefer truck bound for consignee (state government department).
Subsequently, India launched one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drives on Saturday, January 16, setting in motion a complex deployment plan aimed at stemming the wide spread of infections across a nation of more than 1.3 billion people.
At hospitals and vaccination centers across major cities — from Mumbai to New Delhi — tens of thousands of key front-line workers began queuing, some to receive the first vaccines while others to administer them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the program with a speech addressing more than 3,000 centers across India where the first shots were to be given.
“These vaccines will help India win the battle against the virus,” Modi said, adding that Indians should get the shots and not pay heed to any anti-vaccine propaganda.
Plans drawn up by India’s health ministry outline steps to vaccinate 300 million people in the first stage through August.
In an initial round, 30 million health care and front-line workers — such as the police and defense forces — will receive injections. The second phase is targeted at about 270 million people above the age of 50 and those at particular risk to COVID-19. The process will draw on existing networks used to vaccinate tens of millions of babies each year against diseases such as polio.