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NEW DELHI : The Centre on Monday launched Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) vaccine delivery model --Drone Response and Outreach in North East (i-Drone).

The government said this is for the first time that a 'Make in India' drone has been used in South Asia to transport covid-19 vaccines over an aerial distance of 15 km in 12-15 minutes. The drone covered the distance from Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur. The actual road distance between these locations is 26 km. 

“India is a home to geographical diversities and drones can be used to deliver essentials to the last mile. We can use drones in delivering important life-saving medicines, collecting blood samples. This technology can also be used in critical situations. This technology may prove a game changer in addressing the challenges in health care delivery, particularly health supplies in difficult areas," Mansukh Mandaviya, union minister for health and family welfare said while launching the initiative which would facilitate vaccine delivery to tough and hard-to-reach terrains of India.

Incorporating such drone technologies into national programs would also help deliver other vaccines and medical supplies as quickly as possible, he said.

Despite the effective and safe vaccine administration in states and Union Territories, vaccine delivery among tough and hard-to-reach terrains of India is still challenging. The i-Drone has been designed to overcome these challenges by deploying unmanned aerial vehicles/drones to remote areas and hard-to-reach terrains. 

Currently, the drone-based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Island, the union health ministry said.

“More than 89.89 crores (89,89,83,265) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far through government of India (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category, the union health ministry said in a separate statement. More than 5.67 crore (5,67,37,905) balance and unutilized covid-19 vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered," the government said.

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