Delivering Vaccines Through the Skies
- Jonali Buragohain
- Published on 15 Oct 2021, 8:59 am IST
- 4 minutes read
- Manipur, a tough terrain state, successfully tested drone delivery of Covid 19 vaccines.
- It became the first in Southeast Asia to use drone for delivery of vaccines from plain to island.
- Encouraged by this success, the state tested drone delivery of medicines, also.
- The Additional Chief Secretary, Health & Family Welfare (in blue shirt next to the banner) with his team at the launch of vaccine delivery by drone in Manipur
Manipur seems to have a penchant for making headlines. From Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Mirabai Chanu to six successful UPSC candidates emerging from this tiny state, Manipur has been making news of late. And, recently, Manipur became the first in Southeast Asia to deliver Covid 19 vaccines from plain to island by using drones. Additional Chief Secretary (Health & Family Welfare), Manipur, Mr. V. Vumlunmang has been associated with this initiative right from the conceptual stage. In an exclusive conversation with Indian Masterminds, the 1992-batch IAS officer explained how Manipur became the first state to implement this innovative project.
FIRST IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Manipur launched a drone service to deliver 900 doses of Covid 19 vaccines from Bishnupur District Hospital to the Public Health Centre (PHC) in KarangIsland. This island is situated in the middle of Loktak Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The entire exercise was carried out in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The drone approximately took 15 minutes to cover a distance of 25 kilometres, which otherwise takes about an hour by boat. Speaking about this path breaking launch, Mr. V. Vumlunmang said, “Covid pandemic has taught us the importance of being agile on actual health care delivery. So, when ICMR came forward with this innovative project, we gave all possible support.”
MEDICINE TOO DELIVERED BY DRONE
Flushed with the initial success of the Covid 19 vaccines delivery, the Manipur government decided to use drones for delivering medicines as well. A drone was used to distribute medicines in Churachandpur on October 9. The drone travelled from Churachandpur’s Health and Wellness Centre to Bishnupur’s District Hospital, and from there to the Public Health Centre in Phayeng. It carried 1,200 iron folic acid tablets for 40 women in antenatal care, enough to last them for a month.
This time, the drone covered about 29 km.The entire process was automated, and the medicine box was attached to the drone by the drone pilot. The flight parameters and the medicine box remained intact all throughout. The medicines were delivered safely to the PHC, where doctors, nurses and police officers verified and certified them.
The state government flagged off the drone initiative very fast to mitigate the difficulties in delivering vaccines and medicines in rough terrains. Although ICMR helped with the training and oversight, all the activities were carried out by healthcare workers and drone operators of Manipur. Soon after the test flights, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh posted on his Facebook page that his “government is committed to leave no stone unturned to save the precious lives of the people.”
Mr. Vumlunmung, too, credits the proactiveness of the government for the success of the test deliveries.
“We are grateful to Honourable Chief Minister of Manipur who holds the Health portfolio and has been proactive in leading health interventions,” he said.
EXPERIMENT TO BENEFIT ENTIRE NORTHEAST
The senior IAS officer believes that once this initiative becomes fully operational, drone delivery will become an efficient system to deliver lifesaving drugs to the remote, far-flung areas. It will be beneficial not just for the state of Manipur but for the entire Northeast.
“Northeast India has the challenges of hilly terrain and inaccessible areas. So, this innovative drone delivery system holds huge potential for improving health care services,” he said.
This novel initiative of Manipur government comes at a time when states are grappling to come to terms with fast-changing dynamics in the health sector, in the aftermath of two dreadful Covid 19 waves in the country. Manipur has taken the lead in using drones for healthcare. Now, it remains to be seen how far the state is willing to go, to expand this initiative and bring more beneficiaries under the ‘vaccines from the sky’ project.
END OF THE ARTICLE