After several rounds of meetings between the Aviation Ministry and the airlines, the Centre has begun preparations for setting up a cold storage chain for the Covid-19 vaccine in India. Besides storage, the Union government also plans to rope in top airlines to deliver vaccines.
The Aviation Ministry was waiting for the Centre’s nod for a vaccine candidate as arrangements for its transport have already been set, officials privy to the development told The Hindustan Times. The Ministry was concerned about the availability of cargo ships need to procure the vaccine and distribute it once a candidate is selected, the report added.
“We are absolutely ready. We will come out with the specifics soon. We have enough capacity in terms of aircraft. The Prime Minister has also taken a meeting on Friday. We have to first prioritise according to the vaccine that will be chosen—whether it will be from Pune or the South… cold storage will have to come up accordingly. We have enough capacity in terms of aircraft to take them around the country and if need be to take them to other countries or get them from outside as well,” a senior government, who did not wish to be named, told the HT.
The official added that beyond the challenge of cold storage inside the aircraft, it is to set up the cold storage at the point of disembarkation and embarkation at the airport, setting up the whole cold-storage chain. "That’s a separate exercise going on…We have started work and it is at a fairly advanced stage. It is only a matter of weeks before the vaccine is finalised,” the official said.
“It is going to be an absolute herculean task to transport the vaccine to billions of people across the world and in India it is not going to be easy at all. In terms of aircraft capacity to be able to transport and distribute it to districts, sub-districts, villages and even the remotest corners of the country will take years. According to our analysis, to cater to 1.3 billion people of India will need at least 2,000 Boeing 747 freighters, 3,000 Airbus A320s, 1,000 ATR 42s and additionally at least 400 Twin Otters or the Grand Caravan aircraft. It will be a ridiculously difficult task given our current capacity. To be able to distribute it across the world it will require at least 15,000 freighters," the report quoted Mark Martin, chief executive of Martin Consulting LLC, an aviation consultancy, as saying
Last week, in a statement, SpiceJet announced that it is gearing up to provide logistics support for COVID-19 vaccination with its dedicated freighter division SpiceXpress having the capability to transport extremely sensitive drugs and vaccines in controlled temperatures ranging from -40°c to 25°c.