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


A massive pan-India inoculation drive against COVID-19 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.
“This is one of the most affordable vaccines in the world and we are offering it to the GoI at a special price just to support the Prime Minister’s vision and to support the ‘aam aadami’ of our country,” he added.
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.
SpiceJet said its consignments included 276,000 doses to Guwahati, 996,000 doses to Kolkata, 3,72,000 doses to Hyderabad, 480,000 doses to Bhubaneswar, 648,000 doses to Bengaluru, 552,000 doses to Patna and 408,000 doses to Vijayawada.
GoAir, another budget carrier, said it carried its first batch of  70,800 vials from Pune to Chennai. Air India said it carried its consignment of 2,76,000 vaccine doses, weighing 700 kg approximately, from Pune to Ahmedabad.
IndiGo moved the vaccines from Pune to Chandigarh (20,450 vials) and Lucknow, where Uttar Pradesh’s Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh and senior officials were present at the airport.
Prayers were offered again at the airport before the dispatching of the container to a vaccine storage facility in the state capital.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who visited the the airport in Ahmedabad, described the arrival of the vaccines as a “much-awaited moment”.
“The day has finally arrived. We are fully ready for the vaccination drive starting January 16. Our officials received the consignment and took them to the state vaccine centre,” Odisha Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, P K Mohapatra said in Bhubaneswar. (PTI)