India has capacity to store Covid vaccines requiring low temperatures: Centre to SC

New Delhi: India has the capacity to store vaccines that may require a lower temperature in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Celsius and there are over 29,000 cold chain points (CCPs) across the country where vaccines are stored at the recommended temperatures, the Centre has told the Supreme Court.

In an affidavit filed in the apex court in a suo motu case on distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has said that at present, the two vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — are required to be stored at a temperature range of two to eight degrees Celsius.

The Centre has said the requirement for cold storage may change with the arrival of other COVID-19 vaccines in the future and it is fully prepared to take appropriate steps as and when such vaccines are available.

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“The country also has the capacity to store vaccines which may require a lower temperature in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Centigrade. The Sputnik V vaccine requires storage at minus 18 degrees Centigrade,” said the affidavit filed on Saturday.

“It is submitted that there are more than 29,000 cold chain points (CCPs) across the country in states/UTs, where the vaccines are stored at recommended temperatures,” it said, adding, “Of the above CCPs, four national level stores i.e. Government Medical Store Depot (GMSD) are managed by the Government of India and the remaining are managed by the respective state/UT governments,” it added.

It said there are 37 state vaccine stores, 114 regional vaccine stores, 723 district vaccine stores and 28,268 sub-district vaccine stores.

The affidavit said that based on the requirement of both the universal immunisation programme and COVID-19 vaccination, the government has centrally procured and supplied cold chain equipment (CCE) to the states and Union territories (UTs).

“Further, funds are allocated to the states/UTs under the National Health Mission-Programme Implementation Plan (NHM-PIP) for maintenance of CCEs and also for provisioning cold chain technicians (CCTs) for undertaking the repair and maintenance of CCEs,” it said.

The affidavit said there are 29,116 CCPs, located from the national to the sub-district level across the country, which have CCEs like walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, ice-lined refrigerators, deep freezers, cold boxes for the storage of vaccines and freezing of ice packs.

“The capacity of these CCPs has been augmented for the COVID-19 vaccination drive,” it said.

The affidavit said the cold storage equipment procured by the government through the domestic budget is indigenously manufactured.

“The cold storage equipment supplied as aid by the donors i.e. UNICEF constitutes both indigenously-manufactured equipment and imported equipment,” it said.

In the affidavit, the Centre has also that the digital divide is no more a constraint as walk-in Covid vaccination has been allowed and a poor person and a multi-millionaire in the 18 years and above age group are equally entitled to get the vaccine for free.

Till June 25, over 31 crore doses of the Covid vaccines have been administered in the country, the government has said while responding to a slew of questions raised by the apex court in its May 31 order.

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