HealthDay News — In a study published in Vaccine, drones may offer a cheaper and better alternative method to deliver vaccines to people in developing countries.

Using a computer model, researchers concluded that sending drones to deliver vaccines in low- and middle-income countries would be cheaper and quicker than by land-based vehicles. Cars and trucks are limited by road conditions and have high fuel and maintenance costs, the researchers said.

Currently, drones are being tested for medical supply deliveries in rural Virginia, Bhutan, and Papua New Guinea. UNICEF is testing drones to transport lab samples in Malawi. Efforts are underway to use drones to transport blood and essential medications in Tanzania, the researchers noted.

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“Assuming that drones are reliable, they are capable of making the necessary trips, and if they have properly trained operators, they could be a less expensive means of transporting vaccines, especially in remote areas,” senior author Bruce Lee, MD, MBA, director of operations research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s International Vaccine Access Center in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release. 

“They could be particularly valuable when there is more demand for certain vaccines than anticipated and immunization locations must place urgent orders.”


Haidari LA, Brown ST, Ferguson M, et al. The Economic and Operational Value of Using Drones to Transport Vaccines. Vaccine. 2016;34(34):4062-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.06.022.

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