A ground staff walks past a container kept at the Cargo Terminal 2 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)
A ground staff walks past a container kept at the Cargo Terminal 2 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)

From cargo planes to vans: Here’s how Centre plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccine

On Friday, the subject expert committee under the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation will meet to consider the emergency-use authorisation application of Pfizer, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Meenakshi Ray
UPDATED ON JAN 01, 2021 08:58 AM IST

Among the Centre’s elaborate plan to distribute the vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), are the country’s air and road transport network and sites where the shot will be administered to people eligible in the first phase.

On Friday, the subject expert committee (SEC) under the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) will meet to consider the emergency-use authorisation application of three companies—Pfizer, Serum Institute of India (SII) that is to manufacture the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Data from safety and efficacy trials conducted by SII is being vetted by the committee. The vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which received regulatory approval in the UK on Wednesday.

Also read | 2021 brings hope, ready for largest vaccine drive: PM Modi

After the drugs controller’s approval, here is how the distribution plan will work:

1. Officials with knowledge of the government’s vaccination plan have said that special cargo planes with cold boxes storage space and refrigerated vans will start ferrying vials of the vaccine from Pune, where SII’s Covid-19 vaccine production facilities are located, to various parts of the country.

2. State administrations will then distribute the vaccine vials to district authorities for delivery to the hundreds of thousands of inoculation centres to be set up across India in a process which will span over several weeks.

Also read | FAQs about immunisation answered

3. The initial lots of the vaccine will be sent only to government hospitals, public health centres or large private hospitals. The first two priority group of health care and other frontline workers such as police personnel will be vaccinated at these sites.

4. Polling booths, wedding halls, community centres, and mobile vans will be used as inoculation centres where the remaining high-risk population of elderly adults and those suffering from comorbidities will be administered the vaccine.

5. The national expert group on the Covid-19 vaccine will send an order to SII with specific details of how many vials (each vial of the vaccine will contain multiple doses) are to be shipped to each destination after DGCI gives its nod.

Also read | Covid-19: What you need to know today

6. Officials have said that the vaccines will be transported by air and road but not by rail -- at least for now. “There is no plan to use refrigerated vans of Indian Railways as of now. For destinations near Pune, vaccines would be delivered by road. On longer routes, cargo flights will carry the pallets,” said the first official cited above.

7. It will be SII’s responsibility to deliver the vaccines at the designated consignee points but the logistics and cold chains will be monitored primarily by the government. “SII has the obligation to deliver it safely at the specific places and hand it over to the state or central officials. Once the handover is done, the responsibility of further distribution lies entirely with the government,” said a second official.

Also read: Centre releases Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy

8. The government has also set up fixed consignee points or places for handing over vaccine shipments to the states in capital cities and prominent urban centres.

9. The vaccines will be stocked at four Government Medical Store Depots in Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and state and regional vaccine stores. Refrigerated vans will bring these vaccines to the last point in the cold chain in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres.

10. Officials have said that the transportation of vaccines from states and regional stores to divisions and districts would be done in cold boxes using insulated vaccine vans. Vaccines carriers with ice packs are used to transport vaccines from PHCs to the outreach sessions in the village, they added.

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