Zipline to deliver COVID-19 vaccines using drones

The national-scale drone delivery service, Zipline, has announced a successful collaboration with UPS and The UPS Foundation to assist the government of Ghana in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across Ghana.

Supported by the coordination of UPS Healthcare with vaccine manufacturers, UPS deliveries of initial vaccines arrived this week in Ghana from the COVAX Facility and transportation will begin swiftly within Ghana.

The UPS Foundation mobilized its distribution network to receive the vaccines from the Kotoka International Airport to the National Cold Room operated by the Expanded Programme for Immunization of the Ghana Health Service.

UPS will next support the distribution of the bulk vaccine cargo to regional cold rooms and Zipline distribution centers in Omenako, Mpanya, Vobsi and Sefwi Wiawso.

As part of the government’s planned vaccination rollout, Zipline will then provide on-demand delivery of doses directly to health facilities.

On-demand delivery of vaccines will allow the government to increase access to the vaccine to rural areas lacking cold chain storage and will minimize wastage, as doses can be sent as needed, arriving in as little as 15-30 minutes.

“The UPS Foundation is committed to support the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the globe”, says Nicole Clifton, President of the UPS Foundation. “UPS is pleased to partner with Zipline and the Government of Ghana to advance health and wellbeing for the Ghanaian community. This is a moment like no other and it demands the expertise that UPS has developed in Healthcare Logistics. We are moving the world forward by delivering what matters and UPS is proud to be a key player in the global public-private partnerships helping to distribute vaccines to the world.”

The Government of Ghana integrated Zipline’s medical drone delivery service into its health supply chain in April 2019 with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UPS Foundation and other partners. Zipline enables instant access to hundreds of health commodities for thousands of health facilities across the country. Zipline’s current network in Ghana can reach up to half the population and is slated to expand to the entire country later this year.

The General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Naa Adorkor Yawson, said, “Zipline is honored to be a key partner of the Ministry of Health in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines. Our services enable equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine to all Ghanaians, even in areas that do not have cold chain equipment. On-demand delivery service also prevents waste and spoilage of the vaccines by only sending the exact amount required by each facility at any given time. Zipline has the capacity to deliver vaccines, even those that require ultra-low temperatures, to the over 1,000 health facilities that we currently serve.”

“With supply limited for the foreseeable future, COVID-19 vaccines are arguably the world’s most precious commodity this year,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “With every dose being so important, it is critical to ensure that our partner countries have the necessary support and tools to deliver vaccines effectively and efficiently to those who need them. This new support builds on the long-standing partnership between Gavi and the UPS Foundation, which is focused on ensuring that every child in Gavi-supported countries receives lifesaving vaccines.”

The Ghana Health Service, UPS Healthcare and Zipline will collaborate to ensure the safe handling and delivery of the vaccines within the delivery schedule. The Ghana Health Service will deploy their delivery vans, with UPS doing the same to ensure swift delivery while Zipline receives the vaccines and delivers via drones to hard-to-reach areas within their operational areas.

On February 23, COVAX shipped 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine, from the Serum Institute of India (SII) from Pune, India to Accra, Ghana, arriving on the morning of February 24.

The arrival in Accra is the first batch shipped and delivered in Africa by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.

Zipline set up the medical drone delivery service in Ghana in 2019 with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UPS Foundation and other partners.

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