COVID-19: Drones to deliver vaccines in Kaduna

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The Kaduna State government and Zipline, an American firm, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the world’s first medical drone delivery service to convey routine and emergency medicine to the 23 local government areas of the state.

This includes the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines to all parts of the state, Punch reported.

The state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai signed the MoU on behalf of the state while Daniel Marfo, Senior Vice President, Africa – Zipline and Mr Obinna Ukachukwu, Division Head, Health & Education Sterling Bank PLC, signed on behalf of the bank.

The proposed procurement of drones for distribution of pharmaceuticals to all 23 local government areas of the state is the first of its kind in the country.

El-Rufai, while speaking during the signing of the MoU at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna on Wednesday, said the revolutionary new service would use drones to make on-demand deliveries of hundreds of different vaccines, blood products, and life-saving medications.

According to the governor, the service will operate for 24 hours daily with three distribution centres each with 30 drones.

El-Rufai said, “The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from three distribution centres – each equipped with 30 drones – and deliver to more than 1,000 health facilities serving millions of people across Kaduna State.

“Together, all three distribution centres will be capable of micro-targeting the delivery of more than six tons of medical products each week over more than 60,000 square kilometres.

“The revolutionary new service, which is expected to launch operations in the second quarter of 2021, is part of the government of Kaduna State’s bold vision of using drone delivery to establish universal, seven-days-a-week access to lifesaving and critical medicines for most of its more than eight million citizens over the coming years.’

“In addition to expanding access to routine and emergency medical deliveries, the new drone delivery service will also expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for rural and hard to reach populations.

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“Zipline has built an end-to-end, cold chain distribution capability that allows it to safely deliver frozen and ultra-low COVID-19 vaccines and medical products.”

A statement titled, ‘Kaduna to deliver medicines with drones,’ issued at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House shortly after the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, added, “this will allow health facilities in Kaduna State to bypass the need for ultra-low freezers – which are required to transport, store and distribute the Pfizer vaccine – by receiving on-demand deliveries of the precise amount of COVID-19 vaccines they require at any time, safely and compliantly within the required temperature profile.”

The statement also quoted Governor El Rufai as having said that “Kaduna State is focused on delivering one of the best public healthcare systems in Nigeria.”

“The state has upgraded 255 primary health centres, one in each political ward, to improve access to health care services. It is also implementing a supply chain transformation programme in the health sector, including the installation of a Pharma-grade warehouse, to efficiently service the needs of hospitals for medicines, consumables and vaccines.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Zipline, Keller Rinaudo argued that “where you live shouldn’t determine whether or not you have access to the medicine you need.”

“That’s why I’m so proud of our partnership with Kaduna State. Our work together will help transform the quality of care for millions and help make Nigeria a world leader in using technology to expand universal healthcare access,” he added.