In the first trip, the drone transported COVID-19 vaccines from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the PHC. (Image: Twitter/@mansukhmandviya)
For the first time in South Asia, a ‘Make in India’ drone transported COVID-19 vaccines over an aerial distance of 15 km in 12-15 minutes in Manipur on October 4.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday launched the Indian Council of Medical research (ICMR) Drone Response and Outreach in North East (i-Drone), a delivery model to make sure that the vaccines reach everyone.
The initiative is in line with the government's commitment to ‘Antyodaya’ in health, making healthcare accessible to the last citizen of the country, the health ministry said in a statement.
In the first trip, the drone transported vaccines from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the primary health centre (PHC).
"The actual road distance between these locations is 26 km. Today, 10 beneficiaries will receive the first dose and eight will receive the second dose at the PHC," Mandaviya said in the statement.
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mandaviya said, “Under his leadership, the nation is progressing at a great pace. Today is a historic day, which showed us how technology is making life easier and bringing social change.”
He further said that India is home to geographical diversities and drones can be used to deliver essentials to the last mile.
"We can use drones in delivering important life-saving medicines, collecting blood samples. This technology can also be used in critical situations. It may prove to be a game-changer in addressing challenges in healthcare delivery, particularly health supplies, in difficult areas," Mandaviya said.
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Launching the initiative which would facilitate vaccine delivery to hard-to-reach terrains of the country, the health minister said, “Our immunisation programme for COVID-19 has already exceeded all expectations. I strongly believe that this initiative will further help us achieve the highest possible immunisation coverage for COVID-19.”
The drone-based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as in Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
ICMR conducted an initial study in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, to test the capacity of drones to carry and transfer vaccines safely.