Zipline, UPS partner with Gov’t to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to health facilities

  • Zipline’s drone logistics network will provide on-demand, last-mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses, supporting equitable access even in remote and hard-to-reach areas

  • UPS complements government’s ground delivery to National and Regional Cold Rooms as part of the company’s wider equitable distribution efforts

  • Zipline set up the medical drone delivery service in Ghana in 2019 with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UPS Foundation and other partners.

Zipline has announced a successful collaboration with UPS and the UPS Foundation to assist government in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. Supported by the coordination of UPS Healthcare with vaccine manufacturers, UPS deliveries of initial vaccines arrived this week in Ghana from the COVAX Facility and transportation will begin swiftly within the country.

The UPS Foundation mobilised its distribution network to receive the vaccines from Kotoka International Airport to the National Cold Room operated by the Expanded Programme for Immunisation of the Ghana Health Service. UPS will next support distribution of the bulk vaccine cargo to regional cold rooms and Zipline distribution centres in Omenako, Mpanya, Vobsi and Sefwi Wiawso.

As part of government’s planned vaccination rollout, Zipline will then provide on-demand delivery of doses directly to health facilities. On-demand delivery of vaccines will allow the government of Ghana to increase access to the vaccine for rural areas lacking cold chain storage and minimise wastage – as doses can be sent as needed, arriving in as little as 15-30 minutes.

“The UPS Foundation is committed to supporting the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the globe,” says Nicole Clifton, President of the UPS Foundation.  “UPS is pleased to partner with Zipline and the government of Ghana to advance health and wellbeing for the Ghanaian community. This is a moment like no other, and it demands the expertise that UPS has developed in Healthcare Logistics. We are moving the world forward by delivering what matters, and UPS is proud to be a key player in the global public-private partnerships helping to distribute vaccines to the world.”

The government of Ghana integrated Zipline’s medical drone delivery service into its health supply chain in April 2019 with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UPS Foundation and other partners. Zipline enables instant access to hundreds of health commodities for thousands of health facilities across the country. Zipline’s current network in Ghana can reach up to half the population and is slated to expand to the entire country later this year.

The General Manager of Zipline Ghana, Naa Adorkor Yawson said: “Zipline is honoured to be a key partner of the Ministry of Health in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. Our services enable equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all Ghanaians, even in areas that do not have cold chain equipment. On-demand delivery service also prevents waste and spoilage of the vaccines by only sending the exact amount required by each facility at any given time. Zipline has the capacity to deliver vaccines, even those that require ultra-low temperatures, to the over 1,000 health facilities that we currently serve.

“With supply limited for the foreseeable future, COVID-19 vaccines are arguably the world’s most precious commodity this year,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “With every dose being so important, it is critical to ensure that our partner countries have the necessary support and tools to deliver vaccines effectively and efficiently to those who need them. This new support builds on the long-standing partnership between Gavi and the UPS Foundation, which is focused on ensuring that every child in Gavi-supported countries receives lifesaving vaccines.”

The Ghana Health Service, UPS Healthcare and Zipline will collaborate to ensure safe handling and delivery of the vaccines within the delivery schedule. The Ghana Health Service will deploy its delivery vans, with UPS doing the same to ensure swift delivery while Zipline receives the vaccines and delivers via drones to hard-to-reach areas within its operational areas.

On 23 February, COVAX shipped 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune-India, to Accra, Ghana, arriving on the morning of 24 February.  The consignments’ arrival in Accra is the first batch shipped and delivered to Africa by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.  COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers and others.

How Zipline works 

Each week, a single Zipline distribution centre – a combination medical fulfillment warehouse and drone airport – is capable of micro-targetted delivery of more than two tonnes of temperature-controlled medicine to any point across an almost 8,000-square mile service area. Each aircraft can fly a 100-mile 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. Zipline recently announced that it will soon launch medical delivery services in Kaduna State of Nigeria as its footprint grows across Africa. Zipline is preparing to use its existing and planned distribution capacity in Rwanda, Nigeria and the United States to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.

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