As the run-up to the potential vaccine draws close, the country’s largest airport is drawing out plans for standing up to the herculean task. We look at how India’s busiest airport is ramping up for the Mission of the Century and the preparations underway at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.
With India inching closer to lay its hands on a potential vaccine candidate, the ball is now in the court of airports that will play the most pivotal role in the storage and distribution of the antidote.
At Delhi International Airport Ltd.(DIAL), preparations are underway to suit up for the unprecedneted vaccine rollout. The major concerns that have emerged now are pertaining to the storage capacity and how DIAL is planning to undertake the logistical challenges that such an unprecedented task will bring to the fore.
Handling temperature requirements: Cool Dollies
The cargo terminal at DIAL can handle 1.5 lakh million tonnes of cargo a year. Both of Delhi’s cargo terminals have set up temperature-controlled zones and cool chambers. As per reports, the terminals are likely to function 24*7. ‘Cool Dollies’ will be at play to ensure that temperature remains intact as the vaccines go from terminal to aircraft and vice-versa, according to the report.
Despite the logistical headaches that the tumultuous task ahead presents, given the size of India, its vast population and the number of infections, the country’s busiest airport is “completely ready” to handle coronavirus vaccines, as per DIAL’s Chief Executive Officer Videh Kumar Jaipuriar. However, he expressed that there could be issues elsewhere considering more remote areas may not be equipped with sufficient equipment and containers.
Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport will be the key handling point and has provisions to store 2.7 million vials of vaccine at 2-to-8 degrees Celsius, as well as cooling chambers that can keep temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. However, he expressed how the availability of cold chain across the country will be a challenge to look out for.
“One of the key challenges will be the availability of cold chain across India,” Jaipuriar said.
He also shared that there was also a capacity to potentially export vaccines to nearby nations.
The world’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India- also manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in India had recently said that it expected the government to approve the shot for emergency use in a few days.
Given that the much-discussed Pfizer’s vaccines have emerged as an unlikely choice for widespread use since it demands ultra-cold storage requirements which is not feasible for India’s patchy health networks and infrastructure, especially in rural areas where the bulk of the country’s around 1.4 billion people live, all eyes now rest on the next potential vaccine candidates.
“This is a huge logistics exercise that needs to be worked out in detail for the vaccine to reach every nook and corner,” Jaipuriar said.
While India and China have secured over two billion shots with multiple developers, that is less per capita coverage than many smaller places.
Meanwhile, the national capital recorded 564 fresh cases of coronavirus, the lowest in seven months, and 21 more fatalities due to the infection on Monday, even as the positivity rate stood at 0.98%.