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Covid vaccine flights take off: Domestic carriers start flying Covishield doses to cities across the country

The first flight carrying Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine was SpiceJet’s SG8937 that left for Delhi carrying 34 boxes weighing 1,088 kg — just after 8 am on Tuesday. Shortly after the SpiceJet flight departed, GoAir’s flight G8-904 left for Chennai from Pune.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: January 12, 2021 2:55:03 pm
The trucks left the Serum Institute of India premises at Manjari and reached the airport, located 15 km from the facility.

India’s first Covid-19 vaccine consignments were shipped from Pune early on Tuesday — with 56.5 lakh doses expected to be transported during the day by Air India, SpiceJet, GoAir, and IndiGo.

The first flight carrying Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine was SpiceJet’s SG8937 that left for Delhi carrying 34 boxes weighing 1,088 kg — just after 8 am on Tuesday. Shortly after the SpiceJet flight departed, GoAir’s flight G8-904 left for Chennai from Pune.

“Today, Air India, SpiceJet, GoAir & IndiGo will operate nine flights from Pune with 56.5 lakh doses to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow & Chandigarh,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

Many of these consignments will be shipped on regularly scheduled passenger flights, and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had last week issued guidelines for transport of Covid-19 vaccine packed in dry ice on flights.

For some destinations like Vijaywada, Shillong, etc. to where passenger flights are not scheduled, the vaccine will be transported on freighter flights.

“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 1088 kg was carried from Pune to Delhi on SpiceJet flight 8937. We will be carrying multiple vaccine consignments to different Indian cities including Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Patna and Vijayawada through the day today,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.

The maiden consignment of the vaccines in three trucks was rolled out of the Serum Institute of India facility around 5 am Tuesday, which was then loaded on the SpiceJet flight.

Serum vaccine arriving in Delhi (Source: SpiceJet)

In a tweet, Air India said: “Air India is all set to play a pivotal role in vaccination mission, carrying the first consignment of 2,76,000 vaccine doses weighing 700 kgs approx from Pune to Ahmedabad today”.

On Monday, Centre signed a contract with SII for the supply of 11 million doses of Covishield. The country will start its mass inoculation programme against Covid-19 on January 16. Around 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers will be the first in line to receive the shot.

Besides Delhi, the vaccine will be flown to 12 other cities across the country, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said

At least 70 lakh healthcare workers will be administered the vaccine over the next three months, NITI Aayog Member-Health and chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), Dr V K Paul, said.

SII and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech received the Drug Controller General of India’s approval on January 3 for “restricted” use of their Covid-19 vaccines in an “emergency” situation. Following the approvals, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had announced that SII would offer the government a “special” price of Rs 200 per dose for the first 100 million doses of Covishield.

Asked whether the price still remained Rs 200, Dr Cyrus Poonawalla told The Indian Express on Monday, “Yes”. SII officials said this was the rate at which the government would buy the vaccines from SII.

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