How airports, airlines are prepping for vaccine rollout

How airports, airlines are preparing for distribution of Covid-19 vaccine

India's biggest airports are upping their cargo and cold chain equipment to facilitate easy transportation of vaccines

Delhi airport, India’s largest, has launched a campaign ‘Project Sanjivani’, dedicated to vaccine distribution. Credit: AFP

As India inches closer towards a vaccine, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is finalising an arrangement with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to receive 2.5 acres of land next to Pune airport to be used for transport of vaccine from the facilities of the Serum Institute of India, The Indian Express reported.

A senior government official told the paper that this land transfer had been a long-time demand of the AAI and that the plan is now set in motion. “The airport management is also constantly in discussion with SII to understand the requirements because a significant amount of freight is expected to go out from Pune,” the official told IE.

SII, the largest vaccine maker in India, has been testing Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines against novel coronavirus and is licensed to manufacture and distribute the vaccines in India.

As vaccines started receiving emergency approvals in countries across the world, India is also readying its vaccination administration plan. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said earlier this month that vaccinations may start in January. To ensure that the inoculations occur smoothly, airports and logistics companies are working together.

Airports prepare logistics

Even as Pune will be one of the busiest airports for vaccine distribution, major international airports of the country including Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad will also play a major part.

Delhi airport, India’s largest, has launched a campaign ‘Project Sanjivani’, dedicated to vaccine distribution and expanding cooling chambers in cargo facilities.

“The temperature-controlled cargo facilities have the capacity to handle over 1.5 lakh tonnes of cargo per annum. These facilities have state-of-the-art temperature-controlled zones with separate cool chambers ranging from 25 degrees C to minus 20 degrees C,” a Delhi airport spokesperson told the paper.

Delhi airport is also equipping itself with truck slot management system at its terminals through which cargo operators can pre-book trucks. The airports are also stocking up on “cool dollies” to transport goods from the aircraft to the terminal.

Mumbai airport, the biggest gateway of India for pharmaceutical exports and imports, will offer flexible slots for charter operations, the report said.

Smaller airports are also upgrading their cold chain infrastructure to facilitate the movement of the vaccines. 

Airlines — India and abroad

Carriers in India and abroad are also tying up with logistics companies and airports to help out in vaccine distribution. SpiceJet, for instance, will collaborate with Hyderabad airport and some logistics companies to ensure transportation of vaccines.

Emirates and Singapore Airlines have already started moving vaccines around the world.