The first consignment of 2.64 lakh doses of the vaccine took off for Delhi on a SpiceJet flight soon after 8 am, landing in the national capital a little before 10 am. About half a crore doses of Serum Institute of India’s (SII’s) Covishield vaccine were shipped out of Pune to cities across India on Tuesday as the country launched its final phase of preparations for the mass inoculation drive against the novel coronavirus that begins on Saturday.
A GoAir flight to Chennai and an Air India flight to Ahmedabad followed. The last flight of the day with the vaccine cargo, an IndiGo flight to Lucknow, left Pune at 2.10 pm. By 4 pm, 54.72 lakh doses of the vaccine had reached stores around the country, the Health Ministry said at a briefing in the evening.
A total 477 boxes of vaccine cargo, each weighing 32 kg, were shipped out, officials in Pune said. In the evening, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted a picture of a large group of the company’s employees with the message: “An emotional moment for the team at @SerumInstIndia as the first shipments of #Covishield finally leave for multiple locations across India.”
In the morning, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had posted on Twitter that the four carriers would operate nine flights from Pune to ferry 56.5 lakh doses of the vaccine to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Shillong, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Patna, Lucknow, and Chandigarh.
“The vaccine consignments were transported in the belly of scheduled passenger flights on Tuesday. Since these were the initial shipments, the quantity was less, and could, therefore, be accommodated in passenger flights. Going ahead, there could be a requirement for freighter aircraft,” an executive with one of the airlines said.
As of Tuesday, the virus had infected more than 1.04 crore and killed more than 1.51 lakh individuals across India.