Drones could begin vaccine deliveries in April, firm says

Drones could begin vaccine deliveries in April, firm says
© Courtesy: Zipline

Drone delivery service Zipline announced Thursday that it is partnering with “a leading manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines” to begin distributing shots to its global partner locations as soon as April. 

The release, first reported by Bloomberg News, says that the San Francisco-based company has built a system that can transport medical supplies that require low temperatures, including “all leading COVID-19 vaccines.” 

Zipline did not specify its partner coronavirus vaccine manufacturer, though the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored and transported in special freezers at temperatures of negative 70 degrees Celsius. 

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When contacted by The Hill, Pfizer did not specifically comment on whether it has partnered with Zipline, but said in a statement that it “supports Zipline’s efforts to expand access to vaccines and medicines to those in hard to reach geographies.” 

“We share Zipline’s commitment to innovative solutions to ensure equity in the distribution of vaccines and medicines,” the statement added. 

Zipline, which has already been delivering medical supplies to Rwanda and Ghana since 2016, said Thursday that its drones will be able to deliver additional resources to remote areas that do not easily have access to necessary health care services. 

“Where you live shouldn’t determine whether or not you get a COVID-19 vaccine,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said in the press release. “Rural areas across the world are being hit hard by this virus.” 

“These communities face great challenges,” Rinaudo added. “We can help health systems bypass infrastructure and supply chain challenges through instant delivery.”

Zipline last year also began delivering personal protective equipment to hospitals in North Carolina overwhelmed amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that Zipline has signed a deal with Nigeria’s Kaduna state to deliver COVID-19 vaccines there, which Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-Rufai said “will help ensure that millions of people in Kaduna State will always get the care they need.” 

Zipline has already delivered more than 1 million doses of vaccines for other diseases in Africa over the past year, according to Reuters. The coronavirus vaccine partnership with Kaduna is also expected to include on-demand delivery of blood products, medications and other vaccines.