How is a Covid-19 vaccine transported

Two pharma companies have been approved by Health Ministry to supply covid -19 vaccines in India, i.e. Serum Institute of India (Covidshield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). The Serum Institute of India is based out of Pune and the manufacturing and supply of vaccine is happening from their plant in Pune. The Bharat Biotech is based out of Telangana and the manufacturing and supply of vaccine is happening from their plant in Telangana.

The vaccination drive will be starting from 16th January 2021 pan India. Transportation of these vaccines is not as easy as it looks. It’s a cumbersome task and keeping in mind the various hands involved in it, reaching this in the time is very critical.

India has around 25,000 to 28,000 cold storage network which is used for government immunization programme. However no company has the ability to store or transport vaccine below -25 deg celcius.

So how does a vaccine transportation from Manufacturing facility to the end user will be done?

1) Vaccine is kept in a box with dry ice and then kept in Air conditioned trucks of which temperature has to be between – 2 degrees celcius to – 25 degrees celcius.  

2.a.) If transported by Road then the local authorities announce a Green corridor so that the vehicle

will not get stuck anywhere since the delivery has to be made within few hours.

2.b.) If transported by Air, then the truck will reach to the nearest airport where special cargo plane is on standby. The vaccine must be packed in dry ice & refrigerated material to maintain low temperature ranging between -8 Deg celcius to -70 Deg celcius which is essential for transportation.

2.b.1.) If transported by Air,  then as the cargo plane reaches the destination, a refrigerated truck is kept on stand by, which will deliver it to the local refrigerated warehouse.

3) Once it is received at the local refrigerated warehouse from there it will further be distributed to local districts / villages through refrigerated vans.

Few Important points:

Initially Serum Institute of India will be responsible to transport vaccine in their own Refrigerated Vans by road to Local Government Storage facilities. The vaccines will be stocked at four Government Medical Store Depots in Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and state and regional vaccine stores. Refrigerated vans will bring these vaccines to the last point in the cold chain in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres.

The government has also set up fixed consignee points or places for handing over vaccine shipments to the states in capital cities and prominent urban centres. From there onwards the state administration will distribute vials to district authorities in their centres across the country.

Officials have said that the vaccines will be transported by air and road but not by rail — at least for now. “There is no plan to use refrigerated vans of Indian Railways as of now. For destinations near Pune, vaccines would be delivered by road. On longer routes, cargo flights will carry the pallets,” said the first official cited above.

Officials have said that the transportation of vaccines from states and regional stores to divisions and districts would be done in cold boxes using insulated vaccine vans. Vaccines carriers with ice packs are used to transport vaccines from PHCs to the outreach sessions in the village, they added.

Once the vaccine reaches the centres, first the healthcare workers will be given a shot of vaccine and then people with 50 years of age will follow.


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