Govt Issues Guidelines For COVID Vaccines to be Transported By Air

DCGA directed the airline operators to pack the COVID-19 vaccines in dry ice as refrigerant material.

2 min read
Chennai: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan along with Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan (L) during his visit to review the dry run for administering COVID-19 vaccine, at a COVID-19 vaccine storage and distribution centre in Chennai, Friday, 8 January 2021. Image used for representation. 

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued guidelines that airline operators must follow while transporting the COVID-19 vaccine, and also directed them to pack the vaccines in dry ice as refrigerant material on Friday, 8 January.

The need for dry ice is recommended because the temperature requirement for COVID-19 vaccines is low, between -8° C to -70° C. “Though there may be different refrigerant options, use of dry ice (Carbon Dioxide Solid) is the most commonly used, affordable and readily available refrigerant material available in the country for transportation of perishables by air.

“Dry ice continually sublimates (dry ice that is solid, transforms into carbon dioxide gas at temperatures higher than -78°C) under normal atmospheric pressure. At reduced pressures, the sublimation rate of dry ice will increase while all other factors being the same,” it noted.

The package must also be classified as 'miscellaneous dangerous goods', added the DCGA circular.

“Carriage of COVID-19 vaccines from the manufacturing units to the place of administration gains significant importance especially in the light of the high expectations of the government(s), healthcare personnel and the general public. It is needless to say that amongst the various modes of transport, air transport is the most efficient option,” noted the circular.

Responsibilities Of Operators

The operator would be in-charge of the transportation and it is his onus to ensure the flight crew remain unharmed by carbon dioxide intoxication. No passengers would be allowed on board during the transport of the vaccine. The crew will also be trained on protocol for managing the operation, noted the DCGA circular.

The operators have to establish the maximum quantity that can be loaded in a cargo. “This maximum quantity shall be based on the aircraft manufacturers’ information on maximum recommended dry ice quantities that the aircraft ventilation can support, depending on the sublimation rate and also the requirement of the operators’ Safety Management Systems,” stated the circular.

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