New Delhi: 2021 kick-started on a positive note for India with coronavirus vaccines coming into the picture. Two vaccines — the Covishield which is being developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, 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.
What central government is tagging as the world’s biggest vaccination drive has been set in motion with the first trucks carrying the COVID-19 vaccine leaving the Serum Institute of India facility in Pune on January 11. The first batches of Covishield vaccine were delivered to 13 cities on January 12. India will begin inoculation on January 16, as announced by the Health Ministry of India. 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.
As India gears up for the launch of a campaign to offer shots to 1.3 billion people in the country, we understand how the vaccine is being transported, where it is being stored and how one can enrol to get the jab.
The Chain Of Transportation For COVID-19 Vaccine
The vaccine is first rolled out from the manufacturer and then it will goes to the closest airport, which in yesterday’s case was from Serum Institute in Pune to Pune Airport. From Airport, the vaccine is transported to four main primary vaccine stores – Karnal, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai that essentially covers North, South, East and West for India.
From these Primary Vaccine Stores, the vaccine will be transported to the 37 state centres in refrigerated vans, where each state will have minimum one centre. But there are some bigger states like Uttar Pradesh that has as many as nine centres. From the state vaccine store these vaccines will be sent to the district vaccine stores. From district stores the vaccine will be finally sent to primary healthcare centres, where the vaccine will be distributed.
Transportation Of Vaccine: Authorities Have Their Own Set Of SOPs
India’s civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has its own set of very comprehensive guidelines on how the transportation of vaccine is going to happen onboard. As per the guidelines, the vaccines will be transported on a bed of dry ice with temperature varying from -8 degree Celsius to -70 degree Celsius.
As far as trucks are concerned that are allowed to carry the vaccine, the SOPs include – the trucks will have the tracker or GPS system enabled, they will also have temperature controlled mechanism. The trucks will also ring an alarm every time the door of the truck is opened, basically to track the whole movement and transportation of the trucks carrying the vaccine.
Talking about the transportation of the vaccine from trucks and explaining some of the features that these trucks will boast, Kunal Agarwal, Director, Kool-Ex Cold Chain Private Limited told NDTV,
These trucks are highly tech-enabled, for example, each truck has got a temperature range of -25 to +25. So, we can set the range at any temperature at that we want and we can carry any vaccine, for example the one we are carrying currently. These trucks also have door alert so that if there is any unauthorised activity, we can track it down. There is a central cell in place which is tracking the activity of these trucks and it gets alerted right away in case of any mishaps so that the corrective action can be taken. Apart from that, we also have live temperature tracking in all these trucks. Each truck is tracked live and we get updates for the temperature in every truck from all parts of India. And of course, these trucks are GPS enabled, so that we can track the location of every truck we want. Currently, we have a fleet of 400 trucks that do all this for us and will be helping in transporting coronavirus vaccine in the country.
How Will You Get The Vaccine?
Currently, the CoWIN app, the digital platform to roll-out the phased-out vaccination process in the country, is not open for the general public. So far, the app is being used by the government to upload data for the healthcare workers of the government and private hospitals so that the first phase of the vaccination process can roll out from January 16.
But as and when the app will be available to the public, an individual will have to self-register on the platform using any photo identification. The user will get an OTP (one-time password) and once a person registers themself; following this, a user will be notified of the date and venue of vaccination.
What State Vaccine Stores In India Looks Like?
Explaining how the state vaccine stores in India looks like from inside, NDTV’s reporter J Sam Daniel from Teynampet, Chennai, a state vaccine store added,
“There are many walk-in freezers inside and each of these have hundreds of craters, each having around 12,000 doses stored. Before January 16, all the stores in India will have enough stock of the vaccine. Tamil Nadu received 5.36 lakh doses, of which they will be using 5.12 lakh, having 20,000 as buffer stock. In terms of infrastructure, Tamil Nadu has storage capacity of about 10 crore doses. Across the state, there are about 51 walk-in freezers facilities to store the vaccine.”
From Tamil Nadu to New Delhi – NDTV’s reporter Sukirti Dwivedi highlighted the process of transportation in the city. She added, “A green corridor was created on January 11 (i think it came on jan 12) when New Delhi received the first batch of vaccine from the airport to the Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital, the main cold storage facility for storing vaccine in Delhi. In the next two to three days, from here the vaccines will be sent to at least 600 cold chain points across New Delhi, from here it will be transported to 89 vaccination sites to kick start the immunisation drive from January 16.”
NDTV also spoke with some other experts to understand the roll out of the vaccination drive and what does it look like on ground. Talking about the challenges that India can see while rolling out the vaccination drive and the last mile connectivity and how the vaccine can reach to the far-flung areas of the country, Mayur Shetty, CEO, Blackfrog Technologies added,
The very few people are aware about the risk associated with the cold storage facilities for these vaccines. It is likely that one gets the vaccine which has lost its potency on its way, if anything goes wrong in any part of this transportation chain, and a week later end up contracting the disease. So far, we have had no alternatives to portable medical refrigeration and that’s where we kind of come in right now. Our work has been in delivering vaccines while maintaining its efficacy with a portable refrigeration system that can even fit into a backpack.
Highlighting how crucial it is for every chain to work and how dangerous it can be, if something doesn’t go as planned in this whole immunisation drive, Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB (The Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology) said,
As we know, the vaccines need to be transported in 2 to 8 degree, which I think is fairly doable. India has also experience in handling vaccines at such a temperature. It is not like mRNA vaccines that require temperature of -40, which is an extraordinary situation. It is true that if cold chain is not maintained properly while transporting the vaccine, the vaccine will become inactive. So, it is very crucial that the cold chain is maintained properly but having said that, I think, we have all the technology now to maintain it smoothly. We have boxes now, which indicates that the temperature has gone up or not. India has also done so many dry-runs for the vaccination. If India is able to monitor and strictly maintain the cold chains throughout the country for the COVID vaccine then there should not be any problem.
Talking about the role of vaccination officers in this drive and if they can identify the vaccine given to them has arrived at a proper temperature or not, Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Indraprastha Apollo said,
India has been doing this kind of vaccination drive for long, so I am very sure we are trained and equipped enough to carry the January 16 COVID-19 vaccination drive smoothly as well. However, this time around these vaccination officers are trained to know what type of vaccine is reaching to them, was the cold chain maintained throughout or not.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.