New Delhi: The Centre has instructed airport operators, including state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), ground handling service providers and airlines to put in place standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines that will be approved by the government, civil aviation ministry officials said.

The SOPs will be drafted in coordination with the ministry of health and the department of pharmaceuticals, which will be spearheading the formation of a multi-mode cold chain that will ensure the refrigerated production, transport, storage and distribution of the vaccines .

“All the main stakeholders — the airports, the ground handlers and the airlines — have been alerted and they have been asked to draw up their plans,” aviation secretary Pardeep Kharola said.

He added: “The exact SOPs will be formulated with the ministry of health and department of pharmaceuticals when we know the exact quality of the vaccines in terms of what are the precautions that need to be taken, how it has to be transported and what all measures are required. All this has to be factored in. That will be done nearer to the date of transportation and the detailed SOPs will be laid down.”

The aviation ministry has held a round of meetings with airline executives on transport logistics. The central government has started preparations for setting up a cold storage chain for the Covid-19 vaccine that will eventually be approved for use in India, HT reported on December 7.

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri told reporters on Tuesday that a vaccine may be available in India by January and the Centre aims to inoculate at least 300 million people until July 2021 for which at least 600 million doses will be required.

Kharola said temperature regulation will be the most important factor across the entire vaccine supply chain that is being established.

“From the place of manufacture to the place of consumption is a long chain and there will be different modes; there will be road travel, air travel, there will be storage, there will be distribution and then there will be administration of the vaccine. This entire process is being prepared on a war footing,” Kharola said on Tuesday.

“In the administration of the vaccine, transportation is going to be a very important component. This vaccine has to be moved from the place of manufacturing to all corners of the country. The movement of the vaccine will be multi-modal, it cannot be merely civil aviation. It will be a combination of different modes. For our part, we are coordinating with the ministry of health and {department of} pharmaceuticals. We have also had meetings with airports and airlines regarding the transportation plan for the vaccine,” he added.

Several airlines too have begun preparations for transportation; and started partnering with pharmaceutical transportation companies offering cold storage. On Monday, low-cost airline SpiceJet announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pluss Advanced Technologies (PLUSS) for the supply of indigenously developed, precise temperature controlled boxes.

“While transporting pharmaceutical products, biological products or vaccines in particular, the need to maintain precise temperature ranges is very important and the efficacy of vaccine can be impacted if the temperature goes above or below the specified range. PLUSS, an India based material solutions company, has designed and manufactured a precise temperature-control delivery solution that is required for vaccine delivery to the last mile,“ PLUSS said in a statement.

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