Ugandan government to deploy medical drones to ease delivery of Ebola vaccines and blood samples

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KAMPALA, Uganda

Dr. Susan Nabadda, the executive director of National Health Laboratory and Diagnostic Services said drones are faster than any other means of transport in delivering vaccines.

“Medical drones are the fastest means of transport. In outbreaks, we want responses as faster as possible. For an Ebola outbreak, we need to confirm it in time and transport vaccines in the next minute,” Nabadda explained.

She, however, wondered if the drones can fly across the country, giving an example of Kasese district where the recent outbreak of Ebola took place, adding that it would be important if at all drones can cover the distance where the samples are being taken.

“The technology is good like for outbreaks such as Ebola. We take about six hours to get samples from Kasese to Kampala. But for drones, it would take a few minutes to get back the samples,” she added

Speaking during the stakeholder’s workshop in Kampala, Tinah Mutabazi from Uganda flying Labs said medical drones minimise contact with samples and are vehicles for quick response and accuracy.

Early this year Ghana inaugurated medical delivery drones in Omenako. The drones designed by Zipline, a California-based robotics company, benefited 12 million people across the country.

At least up to 600 daily drone flights are made to deliver vaccines, blood supplies and life-saving medicines to 2,000 health centres in remote areas around the country.

Recently, Dr. Charles Olaro, the commissioner for clinical services at the Ministry of Health said that they are engaged in discussions with a number of partners in the process of introducing medical drones.

According to Alaro, the approach is good and that the discussions were among others exploring the modalities of financing. He added that the partner is finalising on how it is going to be financed and be able to see how to pull other partners who can support the technology.

Globally, access to vital health products is hampered by the difficulty of supplying medicines from central storage to remotely located patients at the time of need.

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