Africa Defense Forum
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Nigeria to Use Drones to Deliver Vaccines


Nigeria’s Kaduna State government has signed a deal allowing the drone company Zipline to deliver COVID-19 vaccine by air within minutes of being ordered.

Zipline delivered more than 1 million doses of other vaccines in Ghana and Rwanda in the past year. The deal includes the delivery of blood products, medications and other vaccines.

The drone service will give officials the ability to get vaccines to areas that are difficult to access due to challenging geography and poor road and rail networks.

“This new emergency drone delivery service is a great solution to deliver vaccines, blood and other lifesaving products instantly when time is of the essence,” Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-Rufai told Nigeria’s Premium Times. “It will help ensure that millions of people in Kaduna State will always get the care they need.”

The agreement calls for 24-hour service from three distribution centers with 30 drones each, Reuters reported. Other Nigerian states also are negotiating with Zipline.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine whether or not you have access to the medicine you need,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo told Premium Times. “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 health care access.”

Zipline said its service saves nations money because of the company’s cold-chain distribution capability, which can safely deliver even the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. That means governments don’t have to spend money on ultralow temperature freezers and dry ice. Nigeria has indicated it will not seek vaccines dependent on such cooling equipment, Reuters reported.

“Cold-chain distribution in pharma is complicated even in normal times,” David Gitlin, president and CEO of Carrier Global Corp., told CNBC. “You have a clock ticking, you have an expiration date, you have multiple modes of transportation, multiple handoffs, from [original equipment manufacturer] all the way to administration. The good news is public and private industry all coming together to be part of the solution through more capacity and new digital capabilities.”

Zipline started delivering blood to Rwandan medical facilities in 2016, with lifesaving results.

“Before, it took at least three hours to get blood in an emergency,” Dr. Roger Nyonzima, head surgeon in the maternity ward at Nyanza Hospital, about 100 kilometers from Kigali, told Time magazine. “Three hours can make the difference between saving or losing a life. Now we get blood in 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes, we can work with.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Zipline also has delivered tests and personal protective equipment in Ghana. Drones typically are launched five to seven minutes after a doctor uses a Zipline app to place an order, and deliveries usually are made within 15 to 30 minutes, Business Insider reported.

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