Australian air logistics and drone delivery specialist Swoop Aero has marked another milestone in its healthcare operations in Malawi by delivering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations requiring ultra-cold supply chain conditions.
The company has been involved in drone deliveries in Malawi since November 2019, and its success in handling Pfizer vaccines representing an additional level of sophistication in its network. Although those shots have been transported in similar medical transport structures elsewhere in Africa, respect of the ultra-cold requisites was a first in Malawi, one of the poorest and underserved nations on the planet.
As has increasingly been the case across the continent, use of UAVs in medical transport in Malawi has brought care to remote places and people who previously had limited or no access to it. In its nearly 2.5 years of healthcare drone deliveries in Malawi, Aero Swoop has operated over 4,500, including over 95,100 doses of antibiotics and 24,400 of vaccines, in addition to the new Pfizer jabs.
Assuring it can maintain the ultra-cold supply chain requirements of those means Aero Swoop can increase its service to isolated locales in southern Malawi, which have already received 17,280 COVID-19 vaccine doses by companies like AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson. Swoop Aero had previously mastered cold chain logistics in transporting Ebola vaccines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has also been active in healthcare drone deliveries.
Aero Swoop CEO Eric Peck says the success in managing those rigid transport conditions by aerial logistics networks that didn’t even exist a few years ago is a reflection of how quickly they’ve learned to adapt operations to higher degrees of effectiveness.
“The delivery of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines underscores the novel value of bi-directional drone networks in Malawi,” Peck said. “The global supply chain bottlenecks evidenced over the past two years have demonstrated the need for agile and robust solutions that complement existing methods of transportation to ensure the vaccines are distributed to those in need in a timely and effective manner.”
In recent weeks, southern Malawi in particular has been hit hard by cyclone-driven rains that caused considerable flooding, leaving swaths of the country even harder to reach than usual. As soon as flights were feasible, Aero Swoop upped its cadence of bi-directional, on-demand drone deliveries of medical and healthcare supplies to affected communities. That kept regular COVID-19 vaccines arriving to those populations, as well drugs to prevent malaria, tuberculosis, and polio, which had increased amid the poor water and sanitation conditions.
As it continues developing its aerial network across Malawi, Swoop Aero says it will help bring essential health supplies to 700,000 people directly, and three million people indirectly.