'One of the key challenges will be the availability of cold chain across India,' Delhi International Airport Ltd. Chief Executive Officer has said
Distributing coronavirus vaccines around the country will pose plenty of logistical headaches given the size of India, its vast population and the number of infections, now at over 1 crore.
However, the country's busiest airport is "completely ready" to handle coronavirus vaccines, as per Delhi International Airport Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, but there could be issues elsewhere considering more remote areas may not be equipped with sufficient equipment and containers.
"One of the key challenges will be the availability of cold chain across India," Jaipuriar told Bloomberg.
Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport will be the main handling point and has facilities 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, he added.
The DIAL CEO further said: "As soon as we get an indication on what's going to be the flow, we will do the final tune-up and then we will be ready to go." He also said there was also a capacity to potentially export vaccines to nearby nations.
Jaipuriar's statement comes as the world's largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India, which is also manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in India, said on Monday it expected the government to approve the shot for emergency use in a few days.
Meanwhile, ultra-cold storage requirements for Pfizer's shot make it an unlikely choice for widespread use given India's patchy health networks and infrastructure, especially in rural areas where the bulk of the country's around 1.4 billion people live.
According to Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking, a measure of the best places to be in the Covid-19 era, India is a long way down the list, ranked No. 39 out of 53 economies in December, below even the U.S. and Brazil. New Zealand -- with its closed borders, vaccine deals and elimination of the virus in the community -- remains No. 1.
India, along with China, the world’s most populous nation, both slipped in the ranking versus November. While both countries have secured over two billion shots with multiple developers, that’s less per capita coverage than many smaller places.
“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.
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%.
Delhi had reported 412 cases on May 26, according to the Health Department's data.