Wednesday, January 13, 2021

India’s biggest Covid vaccine rollout begins as SII ships 55 lakh doses

"May all be free from disease" — with this slogan printed on each box, the shipment of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield set out from Pune to other parts of India on Tuesday morning, kickstarting the biggest rollout of a vaccine in the country’s history.

The first vaccine consignment of the country, comprising 2.64 lakh Covishield doses loaded in three trucks, arrived at Pune airport’s cargo handling and processing facility at 5.30am on Tuesday and was shipped out at 8.05 am on SpiceXpress flight SG8937.

Currently, SII is manufacturing 7 crore to 8 crore vaccine doses per month. Private players have been roped in for providing refrigerated trucks, vans and cold storage.

Sources at Pune airport said 456 boxes containing the vaccine vials and weighing 15,000kg were transported to different states in nine aircraft of different airlines. "GoAir was the second in line and flew to Chennai with 59 boxes of the vaccine. The flight left Pune airport at 8.45am and reached Chennai at 10.20am," an airport official said.

Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: "Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir will operate nine flights from Pune with 56.5 lakh doses to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh."

Airlines called the start of the vaccine transportation a historic step. "We at GoAir are overwhelmed with the kind of responsibility bestowed upon us to transport the life-saving Covid-19 vaccines. We are grateful that we have got an opportunity to contribute to the vaccine movement," Kaushik Khona, chief executive officer of GoAir, said.

IndiGo, in its official statement, said they transported 900kg vaccine load from Pune to Chandigarh and Lucknow. "Starting January 13, the vaccine will be transported from Mumbai to other cities on the basis of allocation," an IndiGo spokesperson said.

"Happy that of the 50 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered Tuesday, SpiceJet delivered 40 lakh," SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh Tweeted.

13/01/21 Joy Sengupta/Umesh Isalkar/Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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