Friday, January 08, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine take-off from Pune waits for government to place order

Pune/Nagpur/Bengaluru: Pune airport was ready on Thursday night to begin facilitating a massive airlift of Covid-19 vaccines, perhaps the largest such exercise in the world, but its manufacturer here, Serum Institute of India (SII), was still awaiting an official order to be placed by the Union government.

SII is manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We have been told verbally several times, but no official order has been placed by the government authorities yet. We have 50 million doses ready and can deliver it the day we receive the order,” SII executive director Suresh Jadhav said.

He said the company already has big orders from seven institutions across the world, but “it has not committed on these yet as SII is committed to fulfilling the Indian order on priority basis”. Another senior SII officer, too, confirmed that transportation has been held up for want of an official order.

While the first consignment of vaccines was expected to be dispatched from Pune airport on Thursday, the spokespersons of two airlines and airport officials, who refused to be quoted, said that they have again been told to be prepared on Friday.

Pune airport director Kuldeep Singh confirmed that the airport did not receive any vaccine consignments on Thursday. “We are all prepared and fully ready for the transportation process,” Singh said. He would not comment further.

Earlier on Thursday, the Airports Authority of India said Pune airport is “fully ready and capable of contributing airport resources for transportation of Covid-19 vaccine”. “Every day, Pune @aaipunairport operates 40 flights to 15 destinations across the country. The airport handles 150 tonne cargo daily. #AAI & @AAICLAS_in are fully ready and capable of contributing airport resources for transportation of #COVID19 vaccine in the national interest,” it said on its official Twitter handle.

08/01/21 Joy Sengupta/Chaitanya Deshpande/Chethan Kumar/Times of India

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