Kool-Ex, a Mumbai-based cold chain cargo transporter, will deploy close 150 of its reefer trucks to transport these vaccines from the manufacturing plants of pharma companies to storage facilities across the country, Rahul Agarwal said in an interview.
Kool-Ex, which Agarwal called a “pharma exclusive” transporter, has contracts with Serum Institute; the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech for its Covaxin as well as Zydus Cadila for its Zycov-D vaccine.
The serum has received government approval for a rollout, whereas Bharat Biotech is still conducting phase III trials and has got a conditional nod for restricted use.
Zydus Cadila is conducting advanced phase II trials.
Govt aims to cover 300 million citizens in the first phase of the immunisation program by July-AugustVaccine Drive
Agarwal said Kool-Ex will “hopefully” start transporting Covaxin by February and Zycov-D by April.
A spokesperson at Serum Institute refused to comment on the contract with the transporter, while spokespersons at Bharat Biotech and Zydus did not respond till press time.
The government aims to cover 300 million citizens in the first phase of the immunisation program by July-August, according to the operational guidelines for the vaccine.
This includes 10 million health workers, 20 million frontline workers and 270 million citizens aged over 50.
The government aims to have 30 million shots ready at its storage facilities in January, said Agarwal, with 50% of the consignments.
The remaining will be by road, ferried primarily by his company, said Agarwal.
Kool-Ex has its own fleet of 400 reefer trucks and access to another 300 from vendors.
The first leg of the transport is contracted by pharma companies.
Kool-Ex is also in talks with the Centre and states to ferry the vaccines in their second leg of transport: from facilities to distribution centres in districts, he said.
The Union health ministry recently said 29,000 cold chains, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar refrigerators would be used to store the vaccines.
Agarwal said once the first batch of vaccines reaches storage facilities, the transportation will become less time-sensitive and most of it will shift from air to road. There will be 300-500 trips in the next couple of months transporting vaccines to storage facilities. An additional number of trips will be undertaken from the pharma companies’ plants to airports for air carriage.
Kool-Ex is the only company that says it has got a substantial share of transportation contracts for the vaccines.
Kool-ex co-founder Kunal Agarwal said it has been transporting vaccines for pharma companies for the last 20 years and transportation of the Covid-19 vaccines is covered by current contracts with most of them.
Meanwhile, executives at other transporters such as TCI, logistics companies such as Allcargo Gati and the Warburg Pincus-backed Stellar Value Chain Solutions as well as air express operators such as Blue Dart said none of them had signed contracts to transport vaccines although they have the trucks and necessary infrastructure.
Kool-Ex recently signed a contract with warehouse developer Indospace for 170 acres of pharma warehousing space across the country. Two of them will start functioning by January 2022.
Agarwal said that prior to Covid-19, government facilities had storage facilities for just 50 million vials a year. He said it is in process of augmenting capacity and could rope in private players for storage of Covid-19 vaccines sooner or later.
Kool-Ex is a family-owned business co-founded by the two brothers Rahul and Kunal.