The Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA on Friday issued guidelines regarding transportation of coronavirus vaccines through cargo and passenger aircraft. Asserting that carrying vaccines packed with dry ice is the most viable refrigeration solution, the aviation regulator directed that only trained personnel should handle packets loaded with the hazardous substance and no passenger should be allowed on such aircraft.
"All scheduled operators who have been currently authorized to carry dangerous goods may carry COVID-19 vaccines packed in dry ice, meeting the regulatory requirements," the DGCA said in a circular.
"Ensure that the shipments containing COVID-19 vaccines packed in dry ice shall be accepted and handled by appropriately trained personnel only," it added.
The aviation regulator said while transporting vaccines packed with dry ice, the operators "shall establish the maximum quantity of dry ice that can be loaded".
Dry ice transforms into carbon dioxide gas at temperatures higher than -78 degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure and, therefore, it is classified as "dangerous goods" by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it said.
Operators should take all necessary steps to ensure that flight crew is not harmed by carbon dioxide incapacitation or intoxication, it said.
"Adequate number of carbon dioxide detectors should be available in the cabin. Such detectors should be located at locations for timely and reliable detection of dangerous concentration of carbon dioxide," it added.
The country's drug regulator last week approved restricted emergency use of two vaccines against Covid - Serum Institute's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
While these vaccines remain effective at between 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius, some developed by foreign companies need sub-zero temperature.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan today said that the vaccines could be made available as early as the "next few days".
"In a short time, India has done well by developing vaccines...In the next few days, in the near future, we should be able to give these vaccines to our countrymen. It will be given to our healthcare professional followed by frontline workers," he was quoted today by news agency ANI as saying.