As India awaits the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Delhi Airport is getting ready to facilitate the handling and distribution of the vaccine across the country. It's going to be one of the most daunting logistical challenges ever and the Delhi Airport has been gearing up for months to meet this challenge.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport is the largest Cargo Hub Airport of South Asia region. It has two cargo terminals which have an annual cargo handling capacity of 1.8 million MT which is scalable to 2.3 million MT. "We have a storage capacity of 27 lakh vials of vaccine at any given point. If we are able to complete two rounds of distribution, we can transport 54 lakh vials in a day," said Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL).
Delhi Airport's cargo terminals are equipped with state-of-the-art handling equipment that provides GDP (Good Distribution Practice) certified temperature-controlled facility for handling temperature-sensitive cargo. The cargo terminals have cool chambers where temperature can be set ranging from 25°C to -20°C.
The vaccine distribution plan, which is likely to begin in January, has been named 'Project Sanjivani'. The government is considering emergency use authorisation of 3 vaccine candidates -- AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Bharat Biotech. However, the Delhi Airport does not have the facility to store the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be kept at -70° C. But the Airport is ready with its contingency plans.
'The Pfizer vaccine can be stored with dry ice for 30 days and at 2-8° C for 5 days. So we have 35 days in hand for distribution and we are geared up for that," Jaipuriar said.
To ensure an unbroken cool chain, the Delhi Airport has made arrangements for containers called 'cool dollies' for the movement of temperature-sensitive cargo from the storage area to the aircraft. There is also a dedicated entrance for a faster movement of trucks carrying vaccines to reduce the turnaround time.
The Delhi Airport has also set up a 'Transshipment Excellence Centre' spread over an area of 6,500 sqm at the airside for the movement of transshipment cargo. This will help in the fast movement of vaccines through transshipment. The Delhi Airport is also training its staff for special handling of the COVID-19 vaccines.
With the government expecting to begin vaccinating people against COVID-19 in a few weeks, the Delhi Airport is working round-the-clock with the government and vaccine manufacturers to ensure an efficient roll-out of the vaccine.