Drone delivery of vaccine doses speeds up COVID-19 vaccinations in remote areas of Ghana

Vaccines are packed into a Zipline drone ready to be sent to rural parts of Ghana.
Vaccines are packed into a Zipline drone ready to be sent to rural parts of Ghana. Copyright AP Photo
By Tom BatemanAP
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Each drone can carry up to 2,000 vaccines 160 kilometres, reaching the remotest corners of the west African country.


Ghana is one of the first countries in the world to deliver COVID-19 vaccines by drone.

The drones, operated by American medical delivery company Zipline, have delivered almost 25,000 doses of the vital jabs.

Ghana’s health ministry partnered with Zipline and logistics firm UPS to get the vaccines to remote, rural areas that would be difficult and costly to reach by road.

"It puts into your mind a different perspective on what logistics could look like," said Daniel Marfo, Zipline's Senior Vice President in Africa.

How does it work?

Once doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrive at airports in Ghana, they are transferred to the government’s refrigerated storage centres.

Once Zipline receives the vaccines from the Ministry of Health at one of their launch sites they work with various rural health facilities to find out how many vaccines are needed that day.

Zipline’s workers then put the vaccines into specialised packaging that prevents the vaccines from breaking and also keeps them cold. It is crucial for vaccines to travel at the right temperature for the duration of the trip.

Each package can hold up to 2,000 doses at a time.

Employees at local health facilities are given a precise time and location for the drop-off and they receive another prompt via SMS or WhatsApp five minutes before.

As the drone approaches, it descends 10 metres and drops the package.

Drone operator Zipline says using drones to target vaccine delivery for specific health centres helps reduce wastage.

"Just by having that ability to say that in the morning, you walk to the centre, you know that exactly 130 people are here at this point in time. So we fly enough doses just for 130 people - it's a very powerful thing to do. You didn't forecast, you didn't overestimate, you just sent what was needed, meaning that you are not wasting any doses," Marfo said.

To date, Ghana has administered a total of 1.23 million vaccines, while 376,000 people have been fully vaccinated.

Ghana was the first country to receive a large shipment of vaccines through the COVAX initiative, a worldwide programme aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin

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