US technology firm, Zipline’s self-flying drones has come handy for the Ghana Health Service regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
The threat of COVID-19 brought out new technologies to fight the pandemic, with the latest example taking flight in Ghana. On Wednesday, February 24, Ghana received the first batch of the Coronavirus vaccines at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra. Following that, the Zipline drones has aided in the delivering of the COVID-19 vaccine, allowing the medicine to reach remote areas underserved by traditional logistics.
The CEO of Zipline, Keller Rinaudo shared his excitement in an interview with The Verge. He said, “The reason Ghana was the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine is that they had the strongest application, and the reason they had the strongest application is they can guarantee the delivery of this vaccine to any health facility or hospital in the country at low cost and very high reliability.”
Zipline operates four distribution centers in Ghana, each of which is part drone airport and part medical warehouse, housing a fleet of 30 fixed-wing drones as well as medical supplies. The aircraft fly to their destination autonomously, drop off packages via parachute, and return home.
Zipline since 2019 has made more than 50,000 deliveries in Ghana, including more than 1 million vaccines, and claims its services can reach 12 million people — just over a third of the country’s total population. The drones can deliver to hospitals, but also to temporary mobile clinics that will be used to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in the country’s more remote areas.
According to The Verge, the COVID-19 vaccines being delivered by Zipline in Ghana are the Oxford-AstraZeneca variety, which, unlike some other alternatives, requires only regular refrigeration at temperatures of 2°C to 8°C to maintain stability. This means Zipline can transport the vaccines using the insulation it already uses for couriering blood and other vaccine types.
Zipline says it plans to distribute some 2.5 million doses across Ghana.
In another interview, General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Naa Adorkor Yawson expressed her satisfaction for the work done. She said, “We are honored to be doing this with our key partners, the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the UPS Foundation.
With this intervention, we believe Ghana will be in a position to distribute the vaccine as quickly and equitably as possible.