Assam has received the first consignment of over 2 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, and the airport in Guwahati, known as the gateway to the northeast, has been made a nodal hub for its distribution across the seven states in the region.
Twenty boxes, each containing 12,000 doses of Covishield, were received in Guwahati today. Of these 17 are meant for Assam while the remaining three, containing 36,000 doses, will be sent to Meghalaya.
The northeastern states will be getting both Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, government sources said.
Over the next few days, more boxes of the life-saving drug are expected at the Guwahati airport from where they will be taken to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura via road or air, including flights, choppers and small cargo planes depending on the weather conditions.
However, the biggest challenge ahead of the January 16 mega vaccination drive is to ensure the temperature-sensitive doses can be stored safely before they are dispatched to remote and inaccessible pockets of northeast India.
For this, a part of Guwahati airport's domestic terminal has been turned into a nodal hub for receipt, storage and supply of the vaccine.
Three cold storage facilities, of 10,000-tonne capacity each, have been readied at the Guwahati airport, from where each state can schedule the delivery of its consignment.
Assam has three-layer cold chain storage ready of the exercise, government sources told NDTV.
In phase 1, the state has identified 2 lakh beneficiaries, including health and frontline workers. Some 8,000 medical staffers will get their first jab at 74 sites across Assam on January 16, they added.
Earlier on Tuesday, nine flights carried 56.5 lakh doses of Covishield out of Pune to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh.
Under phase 1, India will vaccinate 1 crore healthcare workers, 2 crore frontline workers and 27 crore people over the age of 50 and those with co-morbidities would get coronavirus vaccines.
The government has ordered 1.01 crore doses of Covishield and plans to buy a total of 5.60 crore doses by April, at Rs 200 per dose. The Hindustan Lifecare Limited or HLL, a Central enterprise, is the agency which will buy the vaccines from both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.