Vaccine drive set in motion as planes ferry consignments to 13 cities on Day 1

A massive pan-India inoculation drive against COVID19 was set in process on Tuesday with more than 56 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine flown to 13 cities across India from Pune and taken to designated national and state-level stores amid tight security.

With the vaccinations scheduled to begin on January 16 starting with healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase, the Centre said all the vaccine vials — 1.1 crore of Covishield from the Serum Institute of India and 55 lakh of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech — will be received by January 14.

‘Puja’ was performed before three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of Serum Institute of India gates in Pune shortly before 5 AM and moved towards the airport, about 15 km away, from where the vaccines were transported by planes across India.

The first consignment containing 2.64 lakh doses reached Delhi a few hours later on a Spicejet flight and was then taken to Delhi’s central storage facility at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital (RGSSH) through a ‘green corridor’ amid high security, officials said.

“This is a proud and historic moment as scientists, experts and all other stakeholders took great efforts while making this vaccine in less than a year,” SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said after the vaccine rolled out of the facility.

He said there are plans to provide five to six crore more doses by February.

Poonawalla said the SII has offered the vaccine to the central government at a special price of Rs 200.

He also said that once the SII gets the requisite permission, the vaccine will be made available in the private market for Rs 1,000.

Another vaccine consignment on threetrucks left SII for Mumbai in evening and will be sent from there to 27 places across the country on Wednesday.

Announcing the start of the vaccine movement earlier in the day, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter that four airlines were operating nine flights to transport 56.5 lakh doses of the vaccine from Pune to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh.

Bharat Biotech was also scheduled to dispatch vaccines from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad on Tuesday evening, a senior official of the Airports cargo division said.