The world’s first and only national scale drone delivery service, Zipline, has begun the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to selected health facilities within its service area in Ghana.
This makes Ghana the first country in the world to deploy drones on a national scale to deliver COVID-19 vaccines.
On 23 February, the COVAX Facility shipped 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, from the Serum Institute of India (SII) from Pune, India to Accra, Ghana. 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.
The Government of Ghana will use Zipline’s network to deliver its COVID-19 vaccines to ensure rapid, equitable access across the country. Nearly half of Ghana’s population lives outside of cities, and those 12 million people are difficult to reach with time-limited, cold chain-dependent vaccines. Zipline’s network provides Ghana with a resilient, efficient, and equitable distribution strategy.
“We are proud to be part of this significant milestone in Ghana where our drone logistics network is able to provide on-demand, last-mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccine at scale across the country,” said Zipline CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo.
“Not only does this make Ghana the world’s first country to deploy drones on a national scale for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, but is also a giant effort in ensuring equitable access and enabling Ghana to fully utilize its healthcare infrastructure to deliver vaccines.”
The Snr Vice President, Zipline Africa, Daniel Marfo said, “This, no doubt, is an exciting time for Africa. We are leading the way in using revolutionary drone technology to provide on-demand delivery of medical supplies and vaccines to our 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.”
“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,” said the General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Naa Adorkor Yawson.
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 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.
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.