India begins talks with Luxembourg firm on cold chain for Covid vaccine

Two top officials of the Luxembourg-headquartered B Medical Systems will arrive in New Delhi over the weekend to initiate talks with senior government officials, scientists and diplomats on setting up a cold chain for Covid-19 vaccines in the country. The firm is looking at setting up a plant in the country with its Indian partners to supply specialised refrigerated vaccine transportation boxes and freezers.

The cold chain is counted among the biggest challenges in the logistics of reaching the coronavirus vaccine to people across the country.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shots, the first vaccine cleared for use by any government, need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below. Moderna’s vaccine has to be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius for shipping and longer-term storage of up to six months, but it can be kept at regular refrigeration temperatures for up to 10 days, according to a Reuters report.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated that India may not go for the Pfizer vaccine but will wait a few weeks more for one that is made in the country. “The world is looking at a cheap but effective vaccine against Covid-19. The world is looking at India,” he said.

B Medical Systems, which has the technology to store vaccines at minus 80 degree Celsius, intends to eventually build a plant in Gujarat. But this will take time and in the interim, the company is expected to import boxes that can be used to transport vaccines as soon as production starts.

In September, the company website says, it had partnered with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to donate equipment for the storage of critical Covid-19 vaccines to a Mumbai hospital where clinical trials were being conducted.

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