Today, about 50% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 40% are fully vaccinated — but supply has not been evenly distributed. Reaching remote communities remains a significant challenge in the global rollout; in Africa, for example, we’ve seen many countries successfully vaccinate their urban populations with limited supply, but struggle to reach rural areas. As more doses become available, the question of how to effectively distribute them across the country is becoming even more urgent — that’s where Zipline and Pfizer come in.
To date, Zipline has delivered more than 222,000 COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana, and over 4.5 million routine vaccines. We’ve seen firsthand how instant logistics infrastructure can help power more effective vaccine distribution. But there are still some big question marks about how we, collectively, can enable a successful global rollout.
Vaccine supply has been, and will continue to be, a major obstacle. But as doses become more widely available, all eyes are turning to distribution — a complicated logistical problem that has proven to be an immense global challenge.
Many countries are only set up to vaccinate a small number of people a year, with routine vaccinations, via campaigns planned well in advance. Making COVID-19 vaccines simultaneously accessible across an entire country presents an immense logistical challenge for countries and healthcare organizations, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
This challenge is further complicated by the cold chain storage requirements and the relatively short expiration dates of the COVID-19 vaccines available today. Distributing these types of products rapidly, equitably, and at national scale has no precedent in modern public health.
WHAT WE’RE DOING ABOUT IT
To help tackle this problem, this week Zipline and Pfizer announced that we’ve teamed for long-range deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, an mRNA vaccine that requires ultra low temperature storage. Using the lessons learned from this collaboration, Zipline will deliver hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine across Ghana in 2021.
These deliveries are part of an ongoing collaboration to develop and test an end-to-end vaccine delivery solution, pioneer a new method of vaccine distribution, and reach a common goal: enabling equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every person on earth.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Our testing with Pfizer proved that equitable vaccine access can be achieved, even for ultra low temperature products, and even in countries with limited ultra low temperature storage.
With an end-to-end solution like the one we validated, storage — and related concerns about spoilage and wastage — are no longer a factor. Instead, any healthcare facility can order the specific doses they need on-demand and be administering vaccines an hour later — even if they’re in a remote area, and even if they don’t have the proper storage facilities on site. No guesswork, no spoiled doses, no wastage; just one step closer to a successful global vaccination campaign.