The biggest tranche yet of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Hyderabad before dawn today and was cleared in a record 90 minutes. At 3 million doses, weighing 56.6 tonnes, this is the biggest import consignment of COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in the country.
The vaccines arrived from Russia on a specially chartered freighter RU-9450, which touched down at Hyderabad Airport at 3:43 am.
The Sputnik V vaccine requires specialised handling and storage; it has to be kept at -20 degrees Celsius, read a statement from GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo, which has emerged as the air cargo hub for vaccine imports into India.
GMR Hyderabad says it has been working closely with experts from the vaccine supply chain team, customs officials and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and handling processes are fully in place at the terminal for smooth handling of the vaccine shipments.
Sputnik V is the third vaccine to be cleared for use in India after Serum Institute of India's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
With India's vaccination drive hamstrung by vaccine shortages, various states have been sending SOS to centre for quick release of doses.
Sputnik V, named after the first Soviet Space satellite, works on the principle of a weakened Covid virus delivering parts of a pathogen that triggers an immune response in the body.
The Apollo Group of Hospitals has announced that it will start administering Sputnik V across its hospitals in India from the second week of June at an estimated price of Rs 1,195 per dose.
Sputnik V was registered in India under emergency use authorization procedure on April 12.
On Monday the Supreme Court flagged "various flaws", including discrepancy in supply and costs for different groups in centre's vaccination policy.
The centre has said it plans to vaccinate all of India by the end of 2021. Last month it pointed to a blueprint that said over 200 crore doses will be available between August and December.
Warning against a possible third wave, experts have said it is imperative to vaccinate as much of the population, as quickly as possible, to minimise the impact of any future waves.
India today reported 1.27 lakh new infections - lowest daily rise since April 9 - taking the overall Covid case count to 2.81 crore. It also logged 2,975 deaths. The country is now witnessing a drop in cases amid a battle against the second Covid wave.