Thirteen infants and five pregnant mothers on the remote Pacific island of Vanuatu became the first people to be immunized with vaccines delivered by commercial drone.
The drones traveled 40 km across mountainous terrain to get to the Cook's Bay area on the island of Erromango. The 25-minute trip would have taken hours by foot or boat. The vaccines, including those for tuberculosis and polio, will help improve health outcomes for Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation, with about 280,000 people spread across roughly 80 islands.
Vanuatu represents one of the poorest regions in the world where 28 of every 1,000 children pass away before the age of five and only one in five children are fully vaccinated.
Vaccines need to be kept at specific temperatures and are thus normally difficult to transport. During the relatively short drone flight, they were kept in Styrofoam boxes with ice-packs and a temperature sensor.
The use of the technology marks a giant leap for global health and could represent the beginning of wider use of drone delivery for various humanitarian purposes.
"With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child," said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.