The first vials of the Covid-19 vaccine developed jointly by AstraZeneca and Oxford University made by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) reached 14 cities in the country on 12 January to the relief of local administrations, setting the stage for the start of a mass immunisation programme on 16 January.
Flights from Pune transported the vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and being marketed in India as Covishield, to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh, while three trucks left for Mumbai in the evening.
As the vaccines reached their destinations, some politicians performed puja (worship ritual) in thanksgiving. The government has said that out of all vaccine doses it has ordered, 11 million from Serum Institute and 5.5 million from Bharat Biotech, will be received by 14 January in all states and Union territories.
About 5,40,800 vials were flown to the 13 cities on 12 January which would be administered to about 6 million health care and frontline workers ―the police, municipal workers and so on ― at the vanguard of the fight against the viral disease.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to launch the vaccination drive and speak by video link to some of the recipients in various states on 16 January, officials said. In Jharkhand, arrangements have already been made in Jamshedpur and Ranchi for an interaction between the Prime Minister and vaccine recipients.
State governments have set up vaccination centres across districts, where 100 people each will get the first dose of the vaccine, officials in multiple states said. Names of the beneficiaries with their Aadhaar numbers will have to be updated on the CoWIN app of the Central government for receiving the vaccination. The states have already created a database of health-care and front-line workers for the first phase of vaccination and would be enrolling people through a door-to- door survey for the next phases, officials said.
Boxes of the vaccine weighing about 32 kilograms each, containing 1,200 vials, were transported in ice-filled, insulated containers. The operation started at 4.55 PM at Serum Institute in Pune and the last batch reached Guwahati at about 5 PM The manufacturing date on most boxes was October 2020, with the month of expiry being March 2021. Each vial has 10 doses.
Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel received the vaccines at Ahmedabad airport and performed a special puja to the consignment as it was being loaded onto a refrigerated van. He flagged off the van carrying the vaccine. “This is good news for India and Gujarat,” he said.
In Bihar, the 54,900 vials of Covishield were taken to the Nalanda Medical College Hospital for storage. The vaccines will dispatched on 13 January to 10 regional vaccine stores in districts such as East Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga.
Punjab received its first consignment of 20,004 vials of the Covishield vaccine, which would be distributed to district headquarters in special vans, said state Covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajeev Bhaskar. Chandigarh received 1,200 vials.
Odisha kept its first consignment in a cold room at the airport before the vials were sent to state vaccine centres. Insulated vaccine vans from every district will be stationed at the centre to carry the vials to district vaccine stores, said Bijay Panigrahi, state nodal officer for the Covid-19 vaccination drive.
Assam and Meghalaya were the first states in the northeast to receive the Covid-19 vaccine
After receiving its first batch of the Serum Institute vaccine, Tamil Nadu is expecting a second batch, from Bharat Biotech, on 13 January, said state health secretary J Radhakrishnan. He said the vaccines were dispatched from Chennai to 10 regional centres including Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai. “The vaccination is entirely voluntary,” Radhakrishnan told reporters, adding that 2,000 vaccination centres had been readied in the state.
As the vaccine arrived, Tamil Nadu and the Union territory of Puducherry announced that immunisation would be free fore everyone. The Bihar government has already made a similar announcement.