Covishield vaccine's first consignment left Serum Institute of India's (SII) Pune facility in the early hours of Tuesday, January 12, four days before India starts its mass vaccination programme.
Three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of SII's gates before 5 am, on their way to Pune airport, from where the vaccines will be transported across the country on a special cargo plane.
A 'puja' was also performed before the vehicles left Serum Institute's facility. The trucks carried 478 boxes of coronavirus vaccines with each box weighing 32 kg.
The wagons left the company's premises at Manjari to reach the airport which is located 15 km from the facility. From there, the vaccines will be flown to 13 locations across the country by 10 am. These locations include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Guwahati, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Karnal, Kolkata, and Vijayawada.
The vaccines will be flown from Pune on eight commercial flights, including two cargo flights, a source told PTI. The first cargo flight will cover Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Bhubaneswar and the second cargo flight will go to Kolkata and Guwahati, he added.
The consignment for Mumbai will leave by road. Trucks belonging to Kool-ex Cold Chain Ltd are being used to ferry vaccine stocks from the Serum Institute. Among the first batch, one consignment is scheduled to be shipped by an Air India cargo flight to Ahmedabad.
On Monday, January 11, Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel tweeted that his state will receive the first consignment of coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday at 10.45 am at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad.
The central government on Monday placed firm orders in advanced commitments for over six crore doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech for inoculating three crore healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase of the nationwide vaccination drive beginning January 16.
Interacting with state chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the enormity of what he called the world's biggest vaccination exercise, saying over 30 crore citizens will get the jabs in the next few months in India against only 2.5 crore people vaccinated so far in over 50 countries in around a month.