Operation Covid vaccine: SpiceJet carries corona-killer to Delhi, mega inoculation drive kicks off

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri had indicated that nearly 30 crore Indians would be vaccinated from January to July 2021

Operation Covid vaccine: SpiceJet carries corona-killer to Delhi, mega inoculation drive kicks off
A SpiceJet plane on January 12 carried the first batch of India's Covid-19 vaccines to Delhi. Image courtesy: DIAL

The mammoth mission of delivering Covid-19 vaccines to different cities of India has begun. The first lot of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covishield vaccine arrived at the Delhi airport from Pune on a SpiceJet flight on Tuesday (January 12) morning. Delhi will get another batch of consignment today which will be delivered by Air India. Meanwhile, GoAir will deliver the first consignment to Chennai.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said Indian carriers will operate as many as nine flights from Pune to different cities carrying 56.5 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccines. 

Puri added vaccine doses will be delivered in New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh.

The SpiceJet plane that carried the Covid-19 vaccine to Delhi. Image courtesy: DIAL

According to flight-tracking service Flightradar24, the SpiceJet flight SG8937 departed from the Pune airport at 8.11 am and landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at 9.54 am. The aircraft used was a Boeing B737-85R. 

Also read: Covid-19 vaccination to cover 30 crore Indians from January-July, MoCA fully ready

The Covishield vaccine has been developed by Oxford University in collaboration with global pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. The Serum Institute of India is the trial partner for the vaccine in India.

Packages containing the Covishield Covid-19 vaccine at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: DIAL

On January 3, the Indian government announced final approval for the Covishield and Covaxin Covid-19 vaccines, preparing the ground for one of the biggest inoculation drives in the world.

Covaxin is India's first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine and has been developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology, Pune.    

Packages containing Covid-19 vaccines being unloaded at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: DIAL

Puri had said at a press conference in New Delhi on December 29 that it is expected that the Covid-19 vaccine will be available in India from January 2021, and the effort will be to vaccinate nearly 30 crore Indians from January to July 2021, for which at least 60 crore doses will be needed.

“I am happy to share that SpiceJet has carried India’s first consignment of Covid vaccine today. The first consignment of Covishield consisting of 34 boxes and weighing 1,088 kg was carried from Pune to Delhi on SpiceJet flight 8937,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.

Also read -- Operation Covid Vaccine: SpiceJet teams up with logistics players, targets difficult goal

Singh said that the airline will be carrying multiple vaccine consignments to different Indian cities including Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Patna and Vijayawada through the day today. 

Hectic activity at the Delhi airport after the first lot of Covid-19 vaccines arrived. Image courtesy: DIAL 

At the Delhi airport, a team of the officials from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), ministry of civil aviation (MoCA), health ministry, Delhi airport and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were ready to receive the vaccines that were to be transported to designated hospitals in GPS-enabled trucks.

“Today, we have received the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine at our airport. Temperature-controlled facility, ranging from -20°C to +25°C, at our two cargo terminals can efficiently and safely handle these temperature-sensitive vaccines. We have cool chambers and cool dollies to maintain the temperature required for these vaccines at the cargo terminal and during transit between aircraft and terminal or vice versa. Our both (sic) the terminals can handle around 5.7 million vials in a day,” DIAL (Delhi International Airport Limited) CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar said.

SpiceJet has carried the first batch of Covishield vaccines to Delhi from Pune. Image courtesy: DIAL

Jaipuriar added that the Delhi airport has synergised and collaborated with all the stakeholders including exporters, importers, logistics companies, freight forwarders/agents, government, airlines and cargo terminal operators to ensure faster turnaround of the vaccines.

Meanwhile, India's civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has issued guidelines to airlines and other aircraft operators for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines.

Also read -- DGCA issues guidelines for carrying Covid vaccines as India gets ready for inoculation

DGCA, in its order dated January 8, 2021, said, "All scheduled operators who have been currently authorised to carry dangerous goods may carry Covid-19 vaccines packed in dry ice, meeting the regulatory requirements." Non-scheduled operators, including aircraft engaged in general aviation, which are required to carry Covid-19 vaccines packed in dry ice, would have to seek specific approval before commencing operations, the regulator added.

Here are some more photos of the arrival of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines at any Indian airport (Image courtesy DIAL):