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Baby is first to receive vaccine by drone in Pacific

A baby boy has become the first person given a vaccine delivered by a commercial drone in Vanuatu.

Unicef arranged for the unmanned device to fly for just 25 minutes to the island in the Pacific to administer the medicine to the area which is somewhat difficult to get to by car or foot due to the mountains.

Unicef's executive director Henrietta Fore hopes that this will spark the beginning of a new service to help them get to the 20 per cent of children who are unable to receive life-saving vaccines because of the difficulty in getting to the island.

She said: "Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health.

"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."

The difficulty in transporting the medicine is that it needs to be chilled.

Local nurse Ms. Nampil was able to vaccinate 13 children and five expectant mothers.

According to the BBC, she said: "It's extremely hard to carry ice boxes to keep the vaccines cool while walking across rivers, mountains, through the rain, across rocky ledges.

"As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island."

Whilst other medicines have been transported via drone, vaccines are "delicate" and the most expensive item to ship as they need to be kept at a certain temperature.

There are also risks involved, as there is the chance that the drones could lose some of their vaccines on the way.

Andrew Parker, the chief of of Unicef's field office, previously said they are hoping the drones would be boost vaccine coverage to 95%.

He said: "To go from 85% to 95% using the existing options is just not feasible. You would throw a huge amount of money at that extra 10%. That's where drones come in.

"There's a lot we don't know yet - will they fly reliably, will they land where we want them to land, will the population accept them or will they be taken out of the air by young boys with catapults?"

Eric Peck of Swoop Aero, who have signed a contract for trial, says that the drones have the potential to complete two deliveries per day, fly up to 100km and carry 2.5kg worth of vaccines.

Whilst they will first be controlled from nearby, Peck says there is the possibility for the aerial vehicles to be manned from anywhere in the world.

He said: "Our service will allow a health worker in a village to send us a text message and we can respond on demand, and sent the correct number of vaccines directly and in most cases we can be there in under an hour."

After the successful trial, further medical items such as blood samples could be carried via drone in the future.

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