Thursday, September 16, 2021

Drones that deliver COVID-19 jabs? The future of India’s vaccine drive is nearly here

India’s varied landscape of towering mountains, expansive deserts, and wetlands susceptible to flash floods has long been an obstacle course for authorities trying to reach citizens in remote areas. In the COVID era, officials are navigating that maze to deliver vaccines, and they’re up against a ticking clock: the government’s goal to vaccinate each of India’s 950 million adults by the end of 2021. 

The extraordinary task calls for an innovative solution—one India piloted last weekend.  

On Saturday afternoon, a dome-shaped white drone the size of a mini refrigerator took off from the Vikarabad parade ground in the southern state of Telangana. Dozens of onlookers applauded as the device climbed upward before zipping off to the east. Within seconds, it was out of sight. Minutes later, the drone landed three kilometers away on the grounds of a state-run community hospital. 

On its journey, the drone cradled a medical cold storage box packed with dry ice and special insulation to protect precious cargo: vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella. It was the first shipment in a 28-day pilot program spearheaded by the World Economic Forum that, if successful, will create a drone network to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to India’s hardest-to-reach places. The project, called Medicine From the Sky, is a partnership between WEF, the state government of Telangana, Apollo Hospitals HealthNet Global, and the government think tank NITI Aayog. For the pilot program, three drone startups—TechEagle, SkyAir, and Marut—have offered their services for free.

If the shipments of vaccines prove successful, the program will expand to delivering other critical medicines and emergency blood supplies.

“This is the first time in the world, when a revolution is about to start, India will not be a follower but a leader,” India Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said at the launch ceremony.

The majority of India’s 1.4 billion people are served by roughly 30,000 government-run primary health care centers, but at least 5% to 10% of the centers are inaccessible to medical suppliers—and sometimes even patients—because of difficult terrain and weather hazards, said Suresh Munuswamy, head of technological innovations at the Public Health Foundation of India.

15/09/21 Biman Mukherji/Fortune

To Read the News in full at Source, Click the Headline


Post a Comment