City transports over 10 million Covid vaccine doses across country within 24 hrs
PUNE At 4:55 am, after performing a symbolic “puja”, a truckload of Covishield vaccine doses left Serum Institute of India’s Hadapsar unit on Tuesday. This was the first of many trucks that would send out about 10.10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine across the country.
By 10 am, more than five million doses of the vaccine were dispatched to various corners of the country. The transport, by trucks to airport and other locations, was in coordination with Pune-based transporter Kool-Ex Cold Chain Ltd transporter and traffic and police departments.
Pune authorities, along with the Centre and the state, carried out a mammoth task on Tuesday when close to 11 million doses were sent via road and air to various locations, including as far as northeast regions, in less than 24 hours. The authorities successfully carried out the challenge of supplying perishable vaccines in the shortest possible time with the help of multiple agencies to various places across the country.
A senior official from Serum Institute of India requesting anonymity said, “We at Serum Institute are used to supplying close to 6.1 billion doses across the world for the past six years. We have even transported large number of doses in short span of time like in the case of measles, mumps and rubella when school children aged 9-5 years had to be vaccinated.
“During the past nine months since we began the production of Covishield, there have been certain departments, including fermentation, where employees were working round the clock in three shifts all seven days. We were fully prepared and only awaiting information on date and timing of transport.
“We had to choose early morning for transport because of the scheduled flight timings as the first flight left at 8 am. As soon as the purchase order was finalised, we contacted the cold van transporter and we have our own fleet of cold vans. Prior to the dispatch, everyone was sensitised by the central government which ensured smooth transportation of the vaccine. Once the last truck left the premises on Tuesday, it was a sense of price and fulfilment, a fruitful result of the efforts we invested since the past nine to ten months. No Covid-19 case was reported from our premises even as we were working in full scale even during the strict lockdown phase.”
The official said, “As of Tuesday morning, all the 11 million doses, as per the purchase order from the government, except 90 vials which is 90,000 doses are pending. These are reserved for Lakshadweep and the five states in the northeast. While doses for Lakshadweep are arranged, the quota for northeast states will be leaving Wednesday. Help from the aviation ministry is appreciated. By Wednesday, all 11 million doses would be transported.”
Pune police played a pivotal role in the transportation and escort of cold vans carrying the doses from the institute to the airport.
Namrata Patil, deputy commissioner of police, zone-5, said, “We provided escort to trucks till the airport and city-limits from Tuesday morning till late night. We found that morning time is good for smooth traffic. It appears that now there is no need for police escort as routine movements have begun. Therefore, unless the company asks for it, we will not be accompanying the vehicles.”
Senior airport authorities were conspicuous by their absence when the trucks reached the airport for unloading around 5:30am. The vials from trucks were received by cargo officials of the four airlines. Information of the transport of doses from the airport to other locations could not be properly gathered because of the absence of senior airport officials flow from the staff to the media personnel was also apparent.
“There is a small cold storage facility at the Pune airport too. The boxes are kept there if not loaded onto the flights directly,” said Kunal Agarwal, co-founder of Kool-Ex Cold Chain Ltd which provided road transport support to Serum institute.
After the early morning movement of trucks to airport, the cargo movement started at night and between 9:30 and 10 pm around seven trucks left the city for nearby states, including Gujarat and Karnataka. Seven trucks left the city for various destinations, including Surat, Baroda, Belgaum, Jhansi, Silvassa, Mumbai airport and Mumbai city between 9:30 and 10 pm.
74 boxes of vaccine transported on Wednesday
The vaccine transportation continued on Wednesday as over 74 boxes with Covishield vaccine left for other cities. According to a SpiceJet spokesperson, on January 13, 34 boxes were sent to Delhi. A GoAir flight with three boxes left for Chennai from Pune with Covishield and another Air Asia flight left from Pune to Jaipur with 37 boxes. Indigo also shipped doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, from Hyderabad to the city via flight number 6E 6516.