Zipline Rwanda – a robotics firm operating unmanned aircraft-drones that deliver blood to local hospitals has put in place all technical and logistical requirements to speed up delivery of the expected COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have been preparing to give this service. It’s something we aspire to do be it here in Rwanda, in Ghana and the rest of the countries where we operate,” said Joseph Ndagijimana Zipline Rwanda General Manager.
“Ours is to get ready so that if the Ministry of Health calls us we give the service.”
Ndagijimana said that his company which is operating in blood and medical delivery in the country since 2016 has the capacity to deliver the costly COVID-19 vaccine safely.
“We have the capacity to distribute and to store medicines be it at normal temperature or cold chain,” Ndagijimana said.
“We actually submitted our proposal to contribute to COVID-19 vaccine delivery, but it belongs to the Ministry of Health to decide. The Ministry has not yet confirmed whether we shall work together.”
Among the adjustments that were made at Zipline is included equipment that will allow the safety of transport and storage of COVID-19 vaccine which necessitates a high level of refrigeration.
Early last month, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre(RBC) said that the country has already installed the required refrigeration systems to store the vaccine and procured equipment to transport it safely to different parts of the country.
Five refrigerators procured at the cost of Rwf50 million were installed in Kigali Special Economic Zone in Masoro, Gasabo district.
According to available information, the refrigerators have the capacity to store something at between -40 and -86 degrees Celsius.
The Ministry of health said that the country is expected to get over 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first and second quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, Zipline has since 2016 delivered 74,000 packages of blood and 26,000 medicines across 271 hospitals and health centers in 25 districts.
Currently, Zipline has two drone ports in Muhanga and Kayonza district of Southern and Western Province respectively.
According to Ndagijimana, the company will increase operating hours from 12 to 24 hours per day this month.
The company is also planning to start delivery of medicines in neighborhoods.
“This will require more staff and rigorous training,” said Ndagijimana adding that his company currently employs about 100 staff.