The world’s first and only national scale drone delivery service, Zipline, has announced the start of the delivery of a new shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the UK to selected health facilities from four of its distribution centres across Ghana.
The UK shipment of 249,000 doses AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the UK arrived in Accra on Wednesday 18 August.
The vaccines formed part of a broader pledge made by the United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 meeting in June, which will see the UK share 100 million jabs with the rest of the world, of which 80% will be through COVAX.
This follows the successful delivery of several shipments of vaccines from the COVAX Facility that Ghana received earlier this year.
The Government of Ghana has been leveraging Zipline’s autonomous medical drone services to ensure rapid and equitable access across the country since the start of the COVID-19 vaccination program in March this year.
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 strengthens Ghana’s medical products distribution strategy by ensuring equitable and efficient distribution of medical supplies, even during health emergencies.
The drone deliveries by Zipline is focusing on remote and hard-to-reach areas in Eastern, Western North and five regions in the Northern part of Ghana
“It is really exciting news for us to see how the instant logistics service Zipline has perfected over the years is being deployed across the country as a response to managing this global pandemic. We, at Zipline, agree that no one is safe until everyone is safe, that is why we are honoured to be part of the efforts of the government in making access to the COVID-19 vaccines hassle-free,” the General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Naa Adorkor Yawson, stated.
“Here again, our partnership with Ghana’s Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service has enabled the country to take lead in not only using drones to break the barrier of access to this critical vaccine but also using our infrastructure to enable equity in healthcare provision”, she added.
Zipline’s Sefwi Wiawso distribution centre will be the sole distributor of COVID-19 vaccines in the whole of the country’s Western North Region.
“As part of our agreement with the Government of Ghana, Zipline will be the sole distributor of these vaccines across all dosing centres in the entire Western North Region. With this, we can rest and be assured of safe and on-demand delivery to all the locations mapped out for us by the Ministry of Health through the Ghana Health Service. We have, for almost a year now, been the sole distributor of all the programmed immunization vaccines in the region and this addition rightly proves what we are able to do”, said Kwasi Owusu Antwi, Health Systems Integration and Governmental Affairs Lead for Zipline.
Commenting on Zipline’s innovative and vital work, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Harriet Thompson said: “Zipline’s game-changing technology means that the UK-donated vaccines that arrived in Accra only three weeks ago have already reached front-line health workers, vulnerable people most at risk from infection and those waiting for their vital second jab.”
“The UK is very proud to play a key part in the partnership between Ghana and Zipline as we continue to overcome and build back better from COVID-19.”
Some communities, including Etse in the Afram Plains district, have already taken delivery of the vaccines with about one-hundred other vaccination centres expected to receive theirs, on-demand, before the end of this week.
Ghana’s Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service have been key collaborators in the continuous success of the on-demand delivery of medical commodities and the COVID-19 vaccines across the country, especially to the hard-to-reach areas.
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 105,000 deliveries, distributing more than 1 million medical commodities and over 3 million vaccine doses (including for covid-19 and childhood diseases).
In April 2020, Zipline began delivering COVID-19 test samples to Accra and Kumasi. This marked the first time in history that autonomous drones had 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 centre – a combination of medical fulfilment 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 12 million autonomous miles to deliver more than 2 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 and Cross River State in Nigeria as its footprint grows across Africa.
Zipline is the world’s only national-scale, instant drone delivery service. Its mission is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.
Zipline designs, assembles, and operates its unmanned aircraft system in the United States and is progressing towards FAA type certification of its drones and air carrier certification for its US operations. The most respected investors in the world support Zipline, including Temasek, Baillie Gifford, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, GV, The Rise Fund, a global impact fund managed by TPG, Katalyst Ventures, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and Stanford University.
UK vaccine support
The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, including through investing £90 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. More than half a billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been delivered at a non-profit price globally, with two-thirds going to lower and middle-income countries.
At the meeting of G7 leaders hosted in the UK in June, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to share 100 million jabs with the rest of the world, of which 80% will be through COVAX. The UK has already donated around 5 million vaccine doses to COVAX and 3 million of these doses will be sent to countries across Africa. Apart from Ghana Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia are among the countries to already receive vaccines.
The UK kick-started efforts to establish COVAX in 2020, providing a total of £548 million to fund vaccines for lower-income countries. The scheme has delivered more than 152 million vaccine doses to over 137 countries and territories, including in 83 lower-middle-income countries. 65% of the initial vaccine doses have been Oxford-AstraZeneca.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by CEPI, Gavi and WHO – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both high-income and lower-income countries.
COVAX aims to deliver 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries around the world by early 2022.