From 5 am on January 11, the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in India began with trucks carrying consignments of Covishield vaccine crossing the gates of Serum Institute of India, in Pune.
Over the next two days, it will reach over 41 locations across the country, with the first doses to be given from January 16.
Here is how the vaccines will travel.
The first leg
By 10am, over 15,000 kg of vaccines left the gates of Serum Institute in Pune. The consignment was divided, with one part going to the Pune airport, and the rest to the one in Mumbai.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The vaccines were transported in trucks, specially fitted with temperature-controlled storage that will keep the doses intact. These trucks are filled with door sensors to check the inside temperature, which can drop to minus 25 Celsius if required. The trucks even give information on how many times the door was opened.
At the airport, Cool Dollies or mobile refrigeration units for airside transportation, are used to load the cargo in aircraft.
From Pune, SpiceJet, Air India and GoAir have already flown these vaccines to their next destinations, including in Delhi and Ahmedabad.
Aviation regulator DGCA had earlier released guidelines on the use of dry ice to transport vaccines. Read them here.
Delhi has already received the first consignments.
"We have Cool Chambers and Cool Dollies to maintain temperature required for these vaccines at the cargo terminal and during transit between aircraft and terminal or vice versa. Our both the terminals can handle around 5.7 million vials in a day," said Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, Delhi International Airport Ltd.
The second leg
The vaccines will fly to 13 cities across India. These include Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Lucknow, and Chandigarh.
Some of these cities will act as regional hubs. Delhi and Karnal in the north. Kolkata for east and north-east. Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad in the west, and Chennai and Hyderabad in the south.
Overall, 41 locations have been identified in the country, from where vaccines will be delivered over the next two days. For instance, from Chennai, the vaccines will reach Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, on January 13.
Both the hubs and the 41 locations, will have warehouses, including those owned by the government or private players like SpiceXpress, the cargo vertical of SpiceJet. These warehouses are equipped with cold storage, including freezers and coolers, to store the vaccines.
The third, and the last, leg
Another fleet of trucks will connect the last mile, taking the vaccines to clinics and hospitals.
Tamil Nadu government for instance, has made ready 10 warehouses, from where vaccines will be taken to 2,000 centres across the districts. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals have been trained to administer doses.In all, a total of 3 crore people will be given doses in the first phase.