Drone delivery of Covid-19 vaccines begins in Ghana

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Delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to selected health facilities has kicked off in Ghana.

The exercise which began on Tuesday, March 2, is being conducted by Zipline, using drones.

Ghana is now the first country in the world to deploy drones on a national scale to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, which were shipped into the country on February 23, by the Covax facility.

Ghana received 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, from the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The arrival in Accra is the first batch delivered anywhere in the world by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021.

How COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed

With about 12 million people in Ghana living outside cities, the country’s government will use Zipline’s network to deliver its COVID-19 vaccines to ensure rapid, equitable access across the country.

Zipline’s network provides Ghana with a resilient, efficient and equitable distribution strategy.

According to Zipline CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo, the use of drones in delivering COVID-19 vaccines is a giant effort in ensuring equitable access and enabling Ghana to fully utilize its healthcare infrastructure to deliver vaccines.

Daniel Marfo, the Senior Vice President, Zipline Africa said the company is leading the way in using revolutionary drone technology to provide on-demand delivery of medical supplies and vaccines to the people who need them the most.

“For many countries, nationwide, equitable distribution, especially to remote and hard-to-reach regions, is a daunting challenge. But in Ghana, the established health infrastructure, and Zipline’s existing network, makes it possible to deliver to those regions quickly and safely,” he said.

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According to Naa Adorkor Yawson, the General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Ghana will be in a position to distribute the vaccine as quickly and equitably as possible, with the use of drones.

Distribution of vaccines to Zipline

The vaccines are transferred to the Zipline distribution center by UPS, which is also providing in-country ground delivery support to the government’s regional cold stores.

Once the vaccines arrive at the Zipline distribution center at Mpanya in the Ashanti region, they are then flown on-demand to health facilities in the region.

Asuofua Health Center was the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines via Zipline’s drone delivery, and within the next few days, more health facilities and dosing centers will be added as directed by the Ghana Health Service.
Zipline & Ghana Partnership & COVID-19 Response.

Ghana’s partnership with Zipline

Ghana first partnered with Zipline in 2019, setting up its on-demand logistics service in four strategic locations to cover approximately half of the population and some of the country’s hardest-to-reach areas.

Since 2019, Zipline Ghana has completed over 50,000 deliveries, distributing more than 450,000 medical commodities. Zipline distributed nearly 1 million routine vaccine doses in 2020 alone.

In April 2020, Zipline began delivering COVID-19 test samples to Accra and Kumasi. This marked the first time in history that autonomous drones have been used to make regular long-range deliveries into densely populated urban areas. It was also the first time that drones had been used in this way to deliver COVID-19 test samples.

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In December 2020, Ghana also deployed Zipline to rapidly distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to Ghana’s poll workers for the presidential election.

In less than 24 hours of receiving the request for assistance from the government, Zipline began delivering PPE, and in under 48 hours delivered PPE across the country, enabling polling locations to open safely and hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians to vote.

How Zipline Works

Each week, a single Zipline distribution center – a combination of medical fulfillment warehouse and drone airport – is capable of the on demand delivery of more than two tons of temperature-controlled medicine to any point across an almost 8,000 square mile service area.

Each aircraft can fly 100 miles round trip, in strong winds and rain, day or night, to make on-demand deliveries in 30 to 45 minutes on average.

Zipline’s drones have flown more than 5 million autonomous miles to deliver more than 1.5 million doses of vaccines, units of blood, and critical and life-saving medications to more than a thousand health facilities serving more than 25 million people across three countries.

In the United States, Zipline has partnered with a leading healthcare system, Novant Health, on the country’s first drone logistics operation by a hospital system for pandemic response. To date, Novant Health has utilized Zipline to make contactless drone distribution of more than 18,000 units of PPE to frontline medical teams around Charlotte, North Carolina.

Zipline recently announced that it will soon launch medical delivery services in Kaduna State in Nigeria as its footprint grows across Africa.

Zipline is preparing to use its existing and planned distribution capacity in Rwanda and Nigeria to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.

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