DGCA issues guidelines to airlines on transportation of COVID19 vaccines packed in dry ice

Aviation regulator DGCA on Friday issued guidelines to all aircraft operators who plan to transport COVID-19 vaccines packed in dry ice to various parts of the country, outlining the necessary safety precautions and modalities.

If vaccines packed in dry ice are being transported in the passenger cabin of an aircraft, then the flight crew should be properly trained on the hazards and risks of its transportation, it noted.

Dry ice transforms into carbon dioxide gas at temperatures higher than minus 78 degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure and, therefore, it is classified as “dangerous goods” by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, “Adequate number of carbon dioxide detectors should be available in the cabin. Such detectors should be located at locations for timely and reliable detection of dangerous concentration of carbon dioxide.”

“All operators while engaging in transportation of COVID-19 vaccines packed with dry ice shall establish the maximum quantity of dry ice that can be loaded in a given cargo hold or in the main deck (passenger cabin) when a passenger version is deployed for all cargo operations,” it said.

The country is preparing for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and the second nationwide mock drill on the drive was conducted on Friday.

India’s drugs regulator has approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, being manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.

The temperature maintenance requirement for COVID-19 vaccines is reported to be varying from minus 8 degree Celsius to minus 70 degree Celsius and hence, the use of refrigerant material during the transportation becomes essential, the DGCA noted.

Dry ice is most commonly used as a refrigerant material for transportation of perishables by air, it added.

If the aircraft operator is taking more dry ice in cargo hold than what is specified in the aircraft manufacturer’s manual, it needs to perform a risk assessment covering points such as potential pressure build up if gas is released from the package, analysis of ambient temperatures on ground, etc. The regulator said the aircraft operator will need to prepare a “Dos and Don’ts” guidance and circulate it among those personnel who would be handling the vaccines.