Vials of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine are seen before they are packaged inside a lab at Serum Institute of India, in Pune. (REUTERS FILE)
Vials of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine are seen before they are packaged inside a lab at Serum Institute of India, in Pune. (REUTERS FILE)

Transport of Covid vaccine to begin soon, Pune police to provide security

The transport will be done partially by road and partially by air. However, air transport will reduce after the first few rounds are over
By Shalaka Shinde
UPDATED ON JAN 10, 2021 03:49 PM IST

The transport of Serum Institute of India’s (SII’s) Covishield vaccine will begin soon from its city-based campus to at least 40 government depots all over the country. The Pune police will be providing security to the vaccine up to the state-border for trucks bound for other states and up to the airport and other destinations within the state limits.

“Today (Saturday), I had a meeting with the logistics company and SII. The transport has been outsourced to Koolex Integrated Cold Chain Solutions. We will be providing security to the vaccine trucks. For some part, it will be by road but most of it will go by air,” said Amitabh Gupta, commissioner of Pune police.

SII refused to comment when asked about the preparedness, government response, and allocation of the vials to various destinations.

Covishield, along with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was granted approval by the Drug Controller General of India on January 3 for restricted emergency use.

“There is no update on vaccine transportation from Pune airport,” said Kuldeep Singh Rishi, director, Pune airport, on Saturday, who had earlier confirmed that the airport authority is ready with a cargo capacity of 500 tonnes and it can be optimised to 1,714 tonnes if the airport functions at full capacity.

“We will be handling the transport from the producers to the government depots. There are some 40-42 destinations that we are looking at. From there onward to the district-level, it will be the government’s responsibility. Although, we have put forth our proposal to take up that part of the transport as well,” said Rahul Agarwal, founder, Koolex Integrated Cold Chain Solutions, which will be playing a key role in transporting the vaccine first 3 crore for front-line workers as well as the following doses in all the states.

The transport will be done partially by road and partially by air. However, air transport will reduce after the first few rounds are over.

“If you consider the population, it is not going to be a two-three day process. We are looking at three-five years. The cost of air travel is much more per kg, per km. So in the initial phase, the air travel may be preferred for an emergency but slowly it will fizzle out and road transport will be preferred. More importantly, there is no live temperature tracking system on flights whereas our trucks are equipped to provide 24*7 temperature and location tracking,” said Agarwal.

When asked about the time taken by road as against time required by air, Agarwal pointed out that the government facility will need time to make space for replenishment as well.

While air transport will be handled by the government in coordination with Koolex, road transport will be handled by the company.

“For example, to Karnal, Haryana, we will send the vials from Serum to the Pune airport, from there it will either go to Delhi or Chandigarh airport and there out trucks will take over for the final destination,” he added.

The company will be providing transport for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin as well as Zydus Cadila Group’s vaccine which is under trial. With a fleet of 300 trucks equipped to transport the vaccines, the company will also be taking the vaccine to neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, among others.

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