A total of 4,39,594 healthcare workers in Tamil Nadu have been registered to receive the vaccine in the first phase.

First consignment of Covishield being unloaded from a truck in Chennai Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan is seen supervising the operation while others look on
Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 18:52

Chennai was among the 12 cities that received the first consignment of Covishield vaccine on Tuesday, thus marking the beginning of India’s biggest vaccination drive against COVID-19. The Chennai airport in Tamil Nadu received the first batch of 5,36,550 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based pharmaceutical company, Serum Institute of India (SII). On Wednesday, it received  20,000 doses of Covaxin, the indigenously developed vaccine by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which has been approved for restricted emergency use.

Manufacturing the vaccine and transporting it to other states by road and air is only the first two legs of the entire vaccine supply chain. As far as a state is concerned, the real challenge begins now, as it involves transporting lakhs of vaccine vials from the airport to a central cold storage facility, then to various districts and then to all taluk hospitals and healthcare centres, all the while maintaining its requisite temperature of 2° to 8° Celsius (for Covishield and Covaxin). 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 for Rs 200 per dose, it will purchase an additional 4.5 crore doses in April. Meanwhile, it has placed orders for 55 lakh doses of Covaxin with each dose being priced at Rs 295 per dose. Phase-three clinical trial for Covaxin, however, is still underway and the data to determine its efficacy and side-effects are still awaited.

A total of 4,39,594 healthcare workers in Tamil Nadu have already registered themselves to receive the vaccine, which is 73% of the total beneficiaries for the first phase, according to the state government.

As the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine drive is set to commence on January 16, Saturday, across 307 vaccine centres in Tamil Nadu, here’s a look at what the vaccine chain looks like, that is, how it reaches the recipients located in various parts of Tamil Nadu. 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.


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 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, a GoAir flight brought the vaccine doses to Chennai and transported them to the State Vaccine Store (SVS), which is on the premises of the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services (DMS) in Teynampet.


Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told TNM that the state has sufficient cold chain points (CCPs) under its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) that it did not have to create or set up new cold chain facilities. These CCPs are generally located in district hospitals, community health centres (CHC), medical colleges, taluk hospitals and primary health centres (PHC). This ensures that vaccines are available in all regions.

The Tamil Nadu government has 2,704 cold chain points (CCPs) that can store 5,36,500 doses at the State Vaccine Store (SVS).

The state government has also requested 1,144 Ice-Lined refrigerators, 992 Deep Freezers, 10 Walk-in Cooler, 10 Walk-in Freezers and 10 Refrigeration Vaccine Vehicles from the Union government. 

From the State Vaccine Store, the vaccines are transported and stored in 10 Regional Vaccine Stores (RVS) — Chennai, Cuddalore, Tiruchirapalli, Thanjavur, Madurai, Sivaganga, Tirunelveli, Vellore, Salem and Coimbatore. Among the regional stores, Chennai will get 1,18,000 doses, with the Greater Chennai Corporation alone getting 63,700 doses.

Regional Vaccine Stores


From the regional centres, the vaccines will be dispatched to each cold chain centre in each district. Each of the 10 RVS has several District Vaccin Stores (DVS)  under it.

Chennai RVS: Chennai Corporation, Poonamallee, Tiruvallur, Chengalpet, Kanchipuram Cuddalore RVS: Cuddalore, Villupuram, Kallakurichi

Trichy RVS: Trichy, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Aranthangi, Pudukkottai, Karur

Thanjavur RVS: Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam

Madurai RVS: Madurai, Dindigul, Palani, Sivakasi, Virudhunagar, Theni

Shivaganga RVS: Sivaganga, Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram

Tirunelveli RVS: Tirunelveli, Kovilpatti, Kanyakumari, Tenkasi, Thoothukudi

Vellore RVS: Vellore, Ranipet, Tirupattur, Tiruvanmalai, Cheyyar

Salem RVS: Salem, Attur, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri

Coimbatore RVS: Coimbatore, Erode, Tiruppur, Nilgiris

The doses in the first phase have been allocated according to the number of recipient-healthcare workers in each district.

According to the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC), insulated trucks that can maintain the cold chain for 14 hours have been arranged to distribute the vaccines to the last cold chain point, which includes district hospitals, Community Healthcare Centres (CHCs), Urban Health Facility, Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) and Sub-centres.


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