SII dispatches Covishield to Bhutan, Maldives
PUNE Covid vaccine export from India began with a maiden long-haul journey to Bhutan followed by the Maldives on Wednesday. The Oxford university-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine left Serum Institute of India, Pune, on Tuesday night by road before being dispatched to Paro, Bhutan, in an Indian Air Force aircraft, according to an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official.
A statement from the Indian Air Force is awaited.
“The first consignment takes off for Bhutan! India begins supply of Covid vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries,” wrote Anurag Srivastava, ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson, on Twitter as a SpiceJet aircraft left from Mumbai on Wednesday.
Srivastava has also confirmed flight movement to the Maldives from India. The vaccines were sent to the two countries under the Vaccine Maitri initiative, as referred to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
“India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. Supplies of Covid vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow (Wednesday), and more will follow in the days ahead,” PM Modi had tweeted on Tuesday night.
The vials reached from Pune to Mumbai airport on a truck that left from Pune on Tuesday night, according to Kunal Agarwal, co-founder, Koolex Cold Chain Solution which undertook the road transport.
From Mumbai airport, the vials were transported to Bagdogra airport, West Bengal on a SpiceJet flight, according to an Airport Authority of India official.
A Pawan Hans helicopter was also supposed to be involved in carrying the vaccines to Paro in Bhutan.
“The vaccine boxes were supposed to go from Bagdogra airport to Paro, Bhutan on a Pawan Hans helicopter which was supposed to come from Gangtok, Sikkim. However, due to heavy rainfall in Gangtok, the Pawan Hans could not leave from there. Finally, with a go-ahead from MEA, the flights left on an Indian Air Force aircraft,” said Subramani P, director, Bagdogra International Airport.
From Bagdogra, there were multiple options on standby for the final phase of transport to Bhutan. An emergency truck was called from Koolex Cold Chain Solution to carry the boxes by road to Thimphu in Bhutan.
“There was a truck that was kept on standby on a late-night request from the Ministry of External Affairs to carry the boxes from Bagdogra airport to Thimphu in Bhutan. However, it was finally not used,” said Agarwal.
Further shipments will be done by India to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles, according to a statement by MEA.
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