Trucks carrying first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines reach Pune Airport from Serum Institute on January 12, 2021.(Kalpesh Nukte/ HT Photo)
Trucks carrying first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines reach Pune Airport from Serum Institute on January 12, 2021.(Kalpesh Nukte/ HT Photo)

3 trucks loaded with SII's Covishield vaccine leave Pune ahead of Jan 16 rollout

The trucks left the SII building at 4:55am behind a police escort vehicle with more police officials following it soon after. The unloading began at the cargo terminal of Pune International Airport at around 5:30am.
By Steffy Thevar, Shalaka Shinde
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:57 AM IST

Three trucks loaded with the first doses of the Covishield vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) left from the Serum Institute of India (SII) building on the outskirts of Pune to the airport, from where they would be sent to various locations across India.

Two of the trucks were marked Serum Institute of India and one of Kool-Ex Cold Chain Ltd, which has partnered with SII for the transportation of the vaccines. Deputy commissioner of police Namrata Patil cracked open a coconut to flag off the trucks. Patil was accompanied by SII employees who clapped as the trucks left the building amid heavy police cover.

"This is the first of the rollout of the vaccine. These trucks are airport bound. One is of Koolex company while two are of Serum Institute of India. We will be providing security for the trucks right up to the airport. The destination of these vials is not something we can comment on," Patil said.

The Centre will start vaccinating frontline workers against the coronavirus disease from January 16. Covishield has been developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Pune based company.

The trucks left the SII building at 4:55am behind a police escort vehicle with more police officials following it soon after. The unloading began at the cargo terminal of Pune International Airport at around 5:30am. A group of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials was providing security to the cargo entrance of the airport as the boxes were unloaded one by one.

Read more: Speedy distribution of vaccine a major challenge for global govts: WHO experts

The vials are stored in what appear to be boxes made of white cardboard and are covered in a plastic layer. The boxes will be transported on multiple flights of private airlines throughout the day and are bound for cities in multiple states, according to an official at the cargo terminal of the Pune airport.

A senior airport official confirmed that 14 flights were to leave from Pune airport with the vaccine vials weighing 14.592 tonnes in about 456 boxes. A Delhi-bound SpiceJet flight, which will leave Pune at 8:05am, will be the first aircraft to carry the boxes containing the vaccine vials. SpiceJet flight SG 8937 is scheduled to land in Delhi at 10:15 am, officials aware of the development confirmed.

These vaccines would be carried in private air carriers and include two Chennai-bound, two Chandigarh-bound, two Kolkata-bound, and one each headed for Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Bengaluru, Patna, and Lucknow.

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