New Delhi/Pune- The first consignment of Covishield vaccines rolled out of the Serum Institute of India facility in Pune early Tuesday and reached Delhi a few hours later, setting in process a massive pan-India inoculation drive against COVID-19 that begins on January 16.
The vaccine movement has started, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter. Four airlines will operate nine flights to transport 56.5 lakh doses of the vaccine from Pune to 13 cities across the country on Tuesday.
Covishield is developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the SII.
The first two flights operated by "SpiceJet and GoAir from Pune to Delhi and Chennai have taken off", the minister said.
"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.
The SpiceJet flight carrying the vaccines landed at Delhi airport around 10 am. It left for the national capital around 8 am.
A 'puja' was performed before the three temperature controlled trucks rolled out of Serum Institute gates shortly before 5 am and moved towards the Pune airport, about 15 km away, from where the vaccines were flown across India.
The "vaccine to kill the disease is being loaded onto the aircrafts for distribution all over the country now", Pune airport tweeted.
Other airlines that transported the vaccines from Pune on Tuesday are GoAir, IndiGo and Air India.
Air India said it carried its first consignment of 2,76,000 vaccine doses, weighing 700 kg approximately, from Pune to Ahmedabad.
IndiGo said it moved 900 kg from Pune to Chandigarh and Lucknow via flight 6E 6515 and 6E 882, respectively.
"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, added the SpiceJet CMD.
The government on Monday placed firm orders in advanced commitments for over six crore doses of COVID vaccines 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. The cost is Rs 1,300 crore.
Bharat Biotech has developed the indigenous vaccine Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
Interacting with chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the enormity of what he called the world's biggest vaccination exercise. 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, he said.
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