NEW DELHI: Commercial airlines as well as the Indian Air Force are being roped in to transport the vaccine vials as the government prepares to start giving the first jabs to immunize the people against Covid-19 next week, said sources.
The transportation of vaccines to different parts of the country could begin Thursday evening or Friday morning.
Officials in the Union health ministry, in consultation with the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration on Covid-19, aviation ministry and cargo operators on Thursday prepared a detailed outline for vaccine transportation.
The first vaccine vials, said officials in the health ministry, are set to be from Pune where the Serum Institute of India has manufactured the ‘Covidshield’ developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca.
The Centre has planned 41 mini-hubs across the country for the distribution of vaccines, which are mostly in state capitals where they will be stored before finally being dispatched to districts.
Delhi and Karnal will be made mini-hubs for northern India while for the eastern part of the country, Kolkata and Guwahati will be the mini-hub for distribution. Guwahati will also be a nodal point for the Northeast.
Chennai and Hyderabad will be the designated points for south India. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, meanwhile, reviewed the preparedness for Covid dummy run on Friday in a virtual meeting with health ministers from the states.
The Union health ministry has informed states and union territories that they are likely to receive the first supply of COVID-19 vaccine shortly and asked them to remain prepared to accept these consignments.
In a communique, the ministry said vaccine will be supplied to the identified consignee points of 19 states and union territories -- Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- by the supplier.
The vaccine for remaining 18 states and union territories -- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Daman and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand -- will be received from their respective government medical store depots.
"All the states and UTs are likely to receive the first supply of COVID-19 vaccine shortly.
"In this regard, you are requested to ensure the advance preparation and readiness for the acceptance of forthcoming supply of the vaccine," Dr Pradeep Halder, advisor, Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) in the health ministry, said in the letter dated January 5.
The further distribution of vaccine to the districts will be done as per the registered beneficiaries, for which a separate communication will be done shortly, the letter stated.
The country's drugs regulator on Sunday approved Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday said it is prepared for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out within ten days of the vaccines getting approved for restricted emergency use on January 3, but a final decision on the launch date would be taken by the government.
Meanwhile, as a simulation of actual execution of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, another round of dry run will be conducted in all districts of all states and union territories, except Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, on January 8 to ensure efficient planning and management for vaccine delivery in each district.
(With PTI Inputs)