In Karnataka, 6,35,986 healthcare workers will receive the vaccine in the first phase.

Boxes of Serum Institutes Covishied vaccine arrive in Bengaluru Police personnel and other health members are standing near the storage facility as the boxes are being unloaded from the truck PTI
Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 11:04

When reefer (or refrigerator) trucks rolled out from the Serum Institute of India's Manjari facility in Maharashtra's Pune in the early hours of Tuesday, it marked the beginning of India’s biggest vaccination drive against COVID-19. The next step involves delivering the consignment of Covishield — the vaccine developed by SII in collaboration with Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca — to multiple cities across the country, by air. Bengaluru was among the 11 cities that received the first consignment of Covishield on Tuesday.

Out of the 7.97 lakh doses that the Karnataka government is expected to receive, 6.48 lakh doses (in 54 boxes) arrived at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru. However, as far as a state is concerned, the real challenge begins now, as it involves transporting the lakhs of vaccine vials from the airport to a central cold storage facility, then to various districts and then to Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), all the while maintaining its requisite temperature of 2° to 8° Celsius (for Covishield and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech). A variation in the temperature could impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

While the Union government has purchased 1.1 crore Covishield doses from SII, it will purchase an additional 4.5 crore doses in April. Meanwhile, it has placed orders for 55 lakh doses of indigenously developed Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, although the vaccine is in its phase-three clinical trial and the data to determine its efficacy and side-effects are still awaited.

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In Karnataka, 6,35,986 healthcare workers will receive the vaccine in the first phase.

As the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine drive is set to commence on January 16, Saturday, across the country, here’s a look at what the vaccine chain looks like, that is, how it reaches the recipients located in various parts of Karnataka. The keyword throughout the cold chain of a vaccine is maintaining it at the optimum temperature, from the time of manufacturing until it is administered.

Transportation

Crores of vaccine vials are being transported from the manufacturing units, be it SII or Bharat Biotech, to various state-run cold storage depots across the country by air and road.

The cold chain logistics service provider, Kool-Ex Cold Chain Ltd, is the lead vendor in transporting the vaccine consignments from the manufacturing plant to the airport and from the destination airport to the government storage facilities. The vaccines will be transported in air-conditioned, temperature-controlled and GPS-attached trucks.

For transportation by air, the vaccines are packed in boxes with dry ice. Airlines such as Air India, Spice Jet, GoAir and Indigo have been roped in for the first phase. These are either stored in either the lower-deck of the cargo compartments or passenger cabin area of the aircraft. Considering the risks and hazards of temperature variation while transporting vaccines in dry ice (carbon dioxide can sublimate from solid to gas form), the ventilation and pressurisation system of the aircraft is ensured to be fully operational and the cabin crew staff are trained about the risks.

On Tuesday, the vaccine doses were brought to Bengaluru by a SpiceJet flight and transported to a government storage facility near Anand Rao circle in the city, from where it will be transported to other districts by road.

Storage

The state government has set up several cold storage facilities to store the vials and syringes (about 24 lakh provided by the Union government) across 30 districts in Karnataka.

According to the government, its ice-lined refrigerators have a capacity ranging between 50 litres and 200 litres, with each litre capable of storing 287 doses. This is in addition to the 64 large ILRs (storage capacity of 225 litres each) provided by the Union government. Two more walk-in coolers and a walk-in freezer are also expected from the Union government.   

Besides, as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), Karnataka already has 2,870 cold chain points (CCP) across 30 districts to bolster the COVID-19 vaccination drive. These CCPs are located in district hospitals, medical colleges, taluk hospitals, community health centres (CHC) and primary health centres (PHC). This ensures that vaccines are available in all regions.

Apart from two primary storage facilities in Bengaluru and Belagavi from where vaccines will be distributed to northern and southern districts, there are five regional storage facilities in Chitradurga, Mangaluru, Mysuru, Kalaburagi and Bagalkote districts.

Distribution

Each district has been allocated insulated vans to distribute vaccines to taluk hospitals, CHCs and PHCs. Karnataka has asked for additional deep freezers, freeze ice packs and cold chain kits to distribute the vaccines from the CCPs. 

(With input from Theja Ram)

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