As the government is gearing up to start the COVID-19 vaccination programme, commercial airlines, as well as the Indian Air Force, are being roped in for the distribution of the vaccines. The transportation of vaccines will begin on Thursday evening or Friday morning, said official sources.
A detailed outline was prepared by the officials in the Union Health Ministry in consultation with the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration, aviation ministry, and cargo operators.
The health ministry, on Thursday, January 7, confirmed that the first vaccine vials are set to be from Pune where the Serum Institute of India has manufactured the 'Covidshield' vaccine developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca.
As per the plan made by the Centre, 41 mini-hubs will be made across the country for the distribution of vaccines. These mini-hubs would mostly be in the state-capitals, where the vaccines will be stored before their dispatch. Delhi and Karnal have been made the mini-hubs for northern India while Kolkata and Guwahati for the eastern part of the country. Also, Chennai and Hyderabad will be the designated points for southern India.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan reviewed the preparedness for the COVID dummy run, on Friday, in a virtual meeting with health ministers from various states. The ministry has said that the 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.
As for the remaining states and union territories, which include 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, the vaccine will be received from the respective government medical store depots.
"In this regard, you are requested to ensure the advance preparation and readiness for the acceptance of forthcoming supply of the vaccine," said Dr Pradeep Halder, advisor, Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) in the health ministry, as reported by The New Indian Express.
A letter from the ministry also stated that further distribution of the vaccines will be done as per the registration, for which a separate communication will be done shortly.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday also confirmed that it is prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the next 10 days. However, a final decision on the launch date is yet to be taken by the government.