GMR Hyderabad Cargo gears up for logistical challenges of COVID-19 vaccine shipments

GHAC is now making arrangements to ensure it can transport large volumes of the vaccines without breaking the cool chain, by stocking enough cold containers, and so on.
GMR Cargo
GMR Cargo
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Several countries across the world are seeing another surge or wave of COVID-19 cases, and vaccine trials are underway in full throttle around the world. Back home, phase 3 trials for Covaxin, India’s indigenous vaccine candidate by Bharat Biotech, are also underway in Hyderabad. With that, the city is being referred to as India’s vaccine capital. Experts opine that Hyderabad will be an integral part of the COVID-19 solution, not just due to its robust manufacturing capacity but also assuming that if Covaxin is a success, its distribution worldwide will be a significant logistical challenge.

GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) has been gearing up for the same. It has a major role in shipping vaccines and has been handling pharma operations for 12 years, including traditional vaccine shipments for global exports and imports. It is now making arrangements to ensure it can transport vaccines without breaking the cool chain, stocking enough cold containers and so on.

A cool chain or cold chain is used to denote a temperature-controlled supply chain. It involves a series of actions, equipment and infrastructure to maintain a particular product – in this case, vaccines – within a specified low-temperature range, right from production to consumption. It is basically a temperature-controlled supply chain.

Maintaining the cool chain

As per the industry insights, most of India’s COVID-19 vaccine exports are likely to be to Africa, Latin America and Asian destinations. GHAC is in talks with various stakeholders towards meeting specific requirements of export and import of COVID-19 vaccines, including the challenge of having multiple ranges of cold and ultra-cold minus temperatures. The procedures are being developed in coordination with manufacturers and supply-chain players to mitigate any risk during the process of transportation of vaccines right from the manufacturers’ facility to the final destination.

Currently, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo is also in the process of expanding specific landside and airside facilities to further handle the spurt in pharma and vaccine shipments from Hyderabad.

Plans are in place also to increase the storage capacity for various vaccine types and related accessories and supplies. GHAC is also working with cool container providers and maintaining large stocks of the same at its station. It is also upgrading the current capacity of cool container storage and charging locations to handle the surge in cool containers movement.

Cool containers are essentially refrigerated and are the most essential elements to maintain the cool chain for perishable products during transportation. This is crucial for vaccines, as they need to be stored in a limited temperature range right from the time they are manufactured to the moment of vaccination. Storage at a temperature that is not in the specified range can cause the vaccine to lose its potency.

To tackle this, the entire pharma zone at GHAC is equipped with temperature and humidity sensors with alarm alerts along with CCTV surveillance to check any temperature excursion in real time. Temperature recording and monitoring are being done with data loggers in exclusive cold storages for temperature sensitive cargo like vaccines and other pharmaceutical items. 

Equipping to handle higher volumes 

Coordinated efforts are being made by GHAC with freight forwarders and trade members to improve efficiency to handle higher volumes with faster turnaround. 

GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo has a well-established Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place for acceptance, screening and handling of vaccines as per the required temperature conditions.  The pharma zone of the terminal is a WHO-GSDP (World Health Organization – Good Storage and Distribution Practices) certified facility.

GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo provides end-to-end unbroken cool-chain for pharmaceutical and vaccine shipments. The terminal at GHAC has one of India’s largest fleet of modern temperature-controlled cool containers. The GHAC had recently launched a mobile refrigeration unit called Cool Dolly for airside transportation of temperature sensitive pharma and vaccine shipments.

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