Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has announced support for the expansion of a medical drone network into Ghana. Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company, will use drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of high priority products including emergency and routine vaccines and other health products.

Gavi’s drone delivery programme for vaccines has already increased access to vaccines in remote areas of Rwanda and Ghana.

“The ability of the government to supplement routine immunisation on demand will allow us to make sure that there will always be enough life-saving vaccines for every child in Ghana,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “This is an exciting development for Gavi that is ultimately going to ensure we leave no one behind and help us protect more children living in remote areas against vaccine-preventable diseases,” he added.

“Through our partnership with Gavi, UK aid is helping Ghana to launch the world’s largest drone delivery service providing life-saving vaccines to millions of children and giving them access to the essential healthcare they deserve,” said Penny Mordaunt, UK International Development Secretary.

“Immunisation is a crucial part of all our lives and no child should suffer at the hands of a vaccine preventable disease. This cutting-edge technology will make sure vital medical supplies reach those who need it most.”

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from four distribution centres – each equipped with 30 drones – and deliver to over 2 000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.

The Zipline drone network will be integrated into the national healthcare supply chain in Ghana and will help prevent vaccine stockouts in health facilities as well as during national immunisation campaigns. Logistics will be managed through Zipline’s hardware and software systems in each of the distribution centres, and deliveries will take place at hospitals and health clinics.

UPS will provide technical guidance and consultancy services as needed, in consultation with Gavi and collaboratively with Zipline. The Government of Ghana is building on the success of the partnership between the Government of Rwanda and Zipline, facilitated by Gavi and supported by philanthropic grants and in-kind support from The UPS Foundation, which pioneered just-in time drone delivery of blood products to hard-to-reach clinics in Rwanda.

The programme, which began in Rwanda in 2016, enabled access to life-saving medical supplies in minutes rather than hours for millions of Rwandan citizens in remote communities. The Government of Rwanda has since expanded the programme across the country, making more than 13 000 deliveries to date. Zipline drones now deliver more than 65% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of the capital, Kigali.