New Delhi/Pune: The first consignment of Covishield vaccines reached Delhi from Pune on Tuesday, four days ahead of the launch of a nationwide drive against the coronavirus.
A SpiceJet flight carrying the vaccines landed at the Delhi airport around 10 am. It had left for the national capital around 8 am, three hours after three trucks with the maiden consignment of the vaccines rolled out of the Serum Institute of India (SII) facility, 15 km from the Pune airport.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said four airlines will operate nine flights to transport 56.5 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pune to 13 cities across the country on Tuesday.
Vaccine movement has started, he said on Twitter, adding that first two flights operated by “SpiceJet and GoAir from Pune to Delhi and Chennai have taken off”.
Three temperature-controlled trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute gates shortly before 5 am and left for Pune airport, from where the vaccines will be flown across India.
A ‘puja’ was performed before the vehicles left the facility.
“I am happy to share that SpiceJet has carried India’s first consignment of COVID vaccine today. The first consignment of Covishield consisting of 34 boxes and weighing 1,088 kg was carried from Pune to Delhi on SpiceJet flight 8937,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.
Covishield is developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the SII.
The government on Monday placed firm orders in advanced commitments for over 6 crore doses of COVID vaccine from SII and Bharat Biotech for inoculating three crore healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase of the vaccination drive scheduled to start from January 16, together which will cost Rs 1,300 crore.
The Pune airport tweeted on Monday morning that the “vaccine to kill the disease is being loaded onto the aircrafts for distribution all over the country now”.
“Today marks the beginning of a long and decisive phase in India’s fight against the pandemic and SpiceJet is proud to assist in the biggest vaccination drive in the history of mankind,” said SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh.
“We will be carrying multiple vaccine consignments to different Indian cities including Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Patna and Vijayawada through the day today. SpiceJet is fully committed and prepared to transport the Covid vaccine both within and outside India,” Singh said.
Interacting with chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the enormity of what he called as the world’s biggest vaccination exercise, saying over 30 crore citizens will get the jabs in the next few months in India against only 2.5 crore people vaccinated so far in over 50 countries in around a month.