Vanuatu’s government is to consider using drones to deliver vaccines after successful world first trials were made last month.
Three drops were made with drones travelling up to forty kilometres over rugged mountain terrain to get to remote island communities.
On the Vanuatu island of Pentecost, life-saving vaccines are stored at Melsisi hospital.
It’s registered nurse Dominic Bule’s job to deliver them to remote villages.
Sometimes by boat, sometimes by car, but mostly on foot over all types of terrain, in all types of weather.
With over eighty remote islands twenty percent of the country’s children aren’t fully immunised.
But that might be about to change says UNICEF NZ executive director, Vivien Maidaborn.
“There were three drone drops in December. From our point of view there is a huge potential but we need to take it step by step and learn our way forward.”
The first successful drop last month was a world first to immunise children with vaccines delivered by commercial drone.
Twelve other children were also given their shots in what’s being hailed a gamechanger.
But it doesn’t come without huge challenges says UNICEF.
“We are still in the first stages of the technology itself but just as importantly the innovation between all the partners that have to come together to make it work.”
Partners including the Vanuatu government, medical authorities, civil aviation, drone companies, UNICEF… not to mention crucial buy-in from the communities themselves.
Once the trials are over in the next few weeks a review will be done looking at the pros and cons so firm decisions can be made about using drones for vaccine deliveries.
Other pacific countries are watching the trials with interest.
“If we can have this working in Vanuatu then there’s the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, East Timor even the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, anywhere where we have many islands with small populations where there are children currently not getting the immunisations, said Maidaborn.