AGENCIES, Pune/New Delhi: Three trucks rolled out of Serum Institute of India’s Pune factory early on Tuesday morning carrying the first batches of its COVID-19 vaccines, Covishield, as India gets ready for the launch of a campaign to offer shots to 1.3 billion people in what officials call the “world’s biggest vaccination drive”.
The first batches of Covishield vaccine will be delivered at 13 cities on Tuesday. The government has said that 30 crore people — starting with health workers and frontline workers like the police, civil defence personnel and sanitation workers — will be administered the vaccine in the first phase. Vaccinations are scheduled to begin on Saturday.
Early on Tuesday morning, three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute gates carrying 478 boxes of the vaccines, each box weighing 32 kg. A puja was performed, along with the traditional breaking of coconuts, before the vehicles headed out of the facility for the Pune airport.
“Civil aviation sector launches yet another momentous mission,” tweeted Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri as the first two flights operated by SpiceJet and GoAir took off with the vaccines to Delhi and Chennai.
Nine flights are operating from Pune with 56.5 lakh doses to 13 locations. The vaccines will be delivered at Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh, Puri said.
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) January 12, 2021
The Delhi airport has made special arrangements, including setting up a temperature-controlled facility, to handle distribution of the vaccines. The consignment will be loaded into two temperature-controlled trucks, which will deliver it to a hospital in Delhi and neighbouring Haryana.
In Gujarat, Deputy Chief Minister Nitinbhai Patel performed the coconut breaking ritual as the first consignment of 2.76 lakh doses arrived. The state has selected 287 sites for the vaccination drive which begins on January 16.
Karnataka government said it was committed to conducting the vaccination drive in a transparent way as the state received 7.95 lakh Covishield vaccines. The state government has already said that about 16 lakh frontline workers in the state will be administered a vaccine against COVID-19 in the first phase at 235 sites.
Neighbouring Tamil Nadu received around five lakh doses of Covishield vaccine. Apart from Covishield, the southern state will receive 20,000 vials of Covaxin vaccine which has been developed by Bharat Biotech.
Assam will receive first consignment of two lakh doses of Covishield vaccines today. The northeastern state will be getting both Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, sources in the government told NDTV. Eight thousand medical staff will roll out Phase 1 vaccination drive at the states 74 vaccination sites on January 16, they said.
The government has ordered 1.01 crore doses of Covishield and plans to buy a total of 5.60 crore doses by April, at Rs 200 per dose. The Hindustan Lifecare Limited (HLL), a central enterprise, is the agency which will buy the vaccines from both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
Two vaccines — the Covishield developed by the Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — received emergency use approval from the Drug Controller of India earlier this month. Both are two-dose vaccines, which will have to be administered at a 28-day gap.