· With many countries around the world confronting a second wave of COVID-19 and subsequently imposing lockdown again, world-wide trials of vaccine to fight the continuing pandemic are on full throttle. Over the last decade, India has emerged as a global pharmaceuticals and vaccine hub producing about 60% of the world’s vaccines. Out of this proportion, Hyderabad, the pharma hub and vaccine capital of India, has the capacity to be the formidable producer of over a third of global vaccine supply. Experts opine that the city will be an integral part of the Covid-19 solution by virtue of its robust manufacturing technology and capacity to manufacture millions of doses as per the best in class industry practices.
· However, developing the vaccine is only half the problem. Distributing them worldwide will be a logistical challenge on an unimaginable scale. Fortunately, some organizations are stepping up to make sure the best possible logistical arrangements for the shipping of the vaccines.
· At this backdrop, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) has a major role cut out in the entire value chain of vaccine shipments to provide the necessary infrastructure for unbroken cool-chain for the global vaccine shipments to maintain the vaccine integrity.
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· The COVID-19 vaccines require specialized handling, hence the procedures are being developed in coordination with manufacturers and supply-chain players to mitigate any risk during the process of transportation of vaccines right from the manufacturers’ facility to the final destination.
Capabilities to meet the challenges ahead
· GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo has a well-established Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place for acceptance, screening and handling of vaccines as per required temperature conditions. The Pharma zone of the terminal is a WHO-GSDP (World Health Organization – Good Storage and Distribution Practices) certified facility.
· GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo provides end-to-end unbroken cool-chain for pharmaceutical and vaccine shipments.
· As the vaccines are highly sensitive shipments, GHAC will leverage its efficiency in handling Pharma from last 12 years of operations to maintain unbroken cool- chain. The terminal offers one of India’s largest fleet of the modern temp-controlled Cool Containers viz. Envirotainer, VaQtec, etc. GHAC recently launched Cool Dolly- a mobile refrigeration unit for airside transportation of temperature sensitive Pharma and Vaccine shipments.
· Cool zones/containers have temperature data loggers and humidity sensors to ensure better monitoring and control while handling the sensitive vaccine shipments.
· GHAC terminal has a large sized Dual view tunnel X-ray Screening Machine to maintain the integrity of vaccines cool containers while screening.
· GHAC is already handling various traditional vaccine shipments for global exports and imports. The GHAC Pharma Zone is well equipped in providing seamless processing of critical vaccines.
· Critical processes like – acceptance, weighing, customs examination, screening, palletization and transportation to aircraft are also performed under temperature-controlled conditions.
Getting Ready to meet the challenge ahead
· As per the industry insights, most of India’s vaccine export will be to Africa, Latin America and Asian Destinations. Ingredients may be obtained from Europe and few other regions. Hyderabad is all set to emerge as a major port once the key manufacturers succeed with the various human trials which are in progress.
· GHAC is in talks with various stakeholders towards meeting specific requirements of export and import of COVID-19 vaccines, including the challenge of having multiple range of cold and ultra-cold minus temperatures.
· Currently, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo is in the process of expanding specific landside and airside facilities to further handle the spurt in pharma & vaccine shipments from Hyderabad.
· Plans are in place also to increase the storage capacity for various vaccine types and related accessories and supplies. GHAC is also working with Cool Container providers for maintaining large stock at its station. It is also upgrading the current capacity of Cool Container storage and charging locations to handle the surge in Cool Containers movement.
· For quick mechanized handling of vaccine boxes and to avoid any breakage/leakage of shipments, dock levelers are in place at the truck dock area for multiple vehicle compatibility. The entire pharma zone is also equipped with temperature and humidity sensors with alarm alerts along with CCTV surveillance to check any temperature excursion in real time. Temperature recording and monitoring is being done with data loggers in exclusive cold storage for temperature sensitive cargo like vaccines/pharma.
· GHAC is working in sync with freight forwarders and trade members to improve efficiency to handle more volumes with faster turnaround. It is undertaking expansion of the Truck Dock and Pharma Zone to increase its handling capacity for temperature sensitive pharma and vaccine shipments. This upgrade will also reduce the cargo acceptance and processing time and enhance operational efficiencies.