DGCA Issues Rules For Transporting COVID-19 Vaccines By Aircraft

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DGCA Indigo Flights - Aviatorsbuzz
Representational photograph showing supplies being loaded on to IndiGo's maiden CarGo flight to Chittagong in Bangladesh. Source: IndiGo

The much awaited guidelines for transporting COVID-19 vaccines packed in dry ice to various parts of the country were issued by aviation safety regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday.

Meeting DGCA Requirements

The guidelines issued by Joint Director General, DGCA, Sunil Kumar said that all scheduled operators who have currently been authorised to carry dangerous goods may carry the COVID-19 vaccine packed in dry ice, meeting all regulatory requirements.

At temperatures higher than -78 degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure, Dry ice transforms into carbon dioxide gas and has therefore classified as ”dangerous goods” by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The aviation safety regulator noted that if the vaccine ampules packed in dry ice are being transported in the passenger cabin of an aircraft, then the flight crew should be properly trained on the hazards and risks of its transportation.

DGCA - aviation
Representational photograph of an airport cargo terminal. Source: Jakarta Airport

Deploy CO2 Detectors: DGCA

“An 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. All operators while engaging in transportation of COVID-19 vaccines packed with dry ice shall establish the maximum quantity of dry ice that can be loaded in a given cargo hold or in the main deck (passenger cabin) when a passenger version is deployed for all cargo operations,” the guidelines said.

The guidelines came out on a day India was conducting its second nationwide mock drill to test preparedness of rolling out the vaccination. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has has approved two vaccines – Covishield, being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin developed Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.

Pune will be the central hub from where the Covid-19 vaccine distribution procedure will take place. As many as 41 destinations across the country have been finalized for delivery of vaccines.

There are four primary stores called the Government Medical Store Depot (GMSD) located in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Haryana’s Karnal. Apart from these, there are 37 vaccine stores in India. These facilities can store vaccines in bulk and distribute further, Government of India officials said.

The government will use Co-WIN, a software for real-time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature, and individualised tracking of beneficiaries for the COVID-19 vaccine.

This software will assist the programme managers across all levels through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification, and a digital certificate will be generated upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated.

Officials said that the cold chain infrastructure is sufficient to ensure last-mile delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine in a temperature-controlled environment across the country. Sufficient supplies of syringes and other logistics have also been ensured to begin the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Around 1,14,100 vaccinators have been trained on the process to be followed at the vaccination sites which includes beneficiary verification, vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, Bio-Medical Waste management, Adverse event following immunization (AEFI) management and uploading the information on Co-WIN software, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.