New Delhi: As the nation gears up to begin its vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus disease next month, the Indian aviation sector is reportedly prepping itself to ensure smooth transportation and storage of the temperature-sensitive vaccines in the country.Also Read - Sri Lanka Mulls Making Covid Vax Cards Mandatory

The key airports that are expected to play a pivotal role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and are equipped with the state-of-the-art time and temperature-sensitive distribution system are Mumbai’s international airport, which has Asia’s largest temperature-controlled export pharma centre, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and GMR’s Hyderabad airport. Also Read - Proof of Vax Required as Strict Mandate Takes Effect in LA

Delhi Airport has two cargo terminals with world-class infrastructure that provides GDP (good distribution practices)-certified temperature-controlled facility for handling temperature-sensitive cargo. With the capacity to handle over 1.5 lakh MT per annum, this facility has state-of-the-art temperature-controlled zones with separate cool chambers ranging from 25 to -20 degree Celsius, which would be extremely conducive for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines Also Read - India To Buy 1 Crore Zydus Cadila Needleless Covid Vaccines At Rs 265 Per Dose

A Delhi International Airport Limited spokesperson said, “There are Cool Dollies at the airside that ensure unbroken cool chain during temperature-sensitive cargo movement between terminal and aircraft. The terminals have separate gates dedicated for fast movement of vehicles carrying vaccines in and out of the airport.”

The emphasis has been laid on quick and efficient transportation and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines whenever they are available.
GMR Hyderabad airport said the terminal is equipped with various temperatures ranging from -20 to +25 degree Celsius with state-of-the-art equipment and cool containers to cater to product-specific requirements.

“GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) boasts of India’s first Pharma Zone with GDP-certified temperature-controlled facility for handling temperature-sensitive cargo… The Freighter Parking stands are just 50 metres away from the terminal thereby minimizing the ramp exposure timing and ensuring quick turn-around of the aircraft.

“We have recently launched the latest Cool Dollies — which is a Mobile Refrigeration Unit for Airside Transportation designed to eliminate any temperature excursions and to maintain the Unbroken Cool Chain. The GHAC also boasts of one of India’s largest storage facility for Cool Containers like Envirotainer, C-Safe, Unicooler, and Vaqtainer within our premises to make sure the service is available for customer 24×7,” Hyderabad Airport said.

Meanwhile, along with the airports, various Indian airlines are also gearing up for transportation and distribution of the vaccines. An official of SpiceJet said the airline is fully prepared and ready to handle the COVID-19 vaccine. The airline spokesperson said the airline has extensive experience in the past and already carries blood samples, which require a temperature-controlled environment.

“Today we have the facility of both our aircraft and our ground support vehicles. We have sufficient capacity to cater to the rise in demand for the COVID-19 vaccine shipments and have prepared the capacity keeping in mind the future. We have been transporting vaccine shipments to various international as well as domestic destinations,” said a SpiceJet spokesperson.

“The transportation of these consignments requires cold chain facilities. SpiceXpress offers cargo shipment with a controlled ambient temperature between +25 degrees C to freezing -40 degrees Celsius. The service is suitable for sensitive drugs, vaccines and blood samples and with the extra protection of thermal blankets in the world-class active RKN and RAP containers,” the spokesperson said.

Medical experts have said the upcoming coronavirus vaccine will require specific cold storage and controlled temperatures.

(With ANI inputs)