Drones deliver Covid vaccines for tribals in remote area of Palghar

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In first for Maharashtra, a drone has been deployed successfully to transport vaccine doses in a remote tribal belt of Jawhar tehsil in Palghar, health officials said here on Friday.

As the drone took off in an automatic mode, officials and people who assembled at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Jawhar town cheered and clapped.

The tiny aircraft carrying a consignment of 300 doses of the life-saving vaccines, safely and smoothly landed in Zaap village, around 25 km away in barely 10 minutes.

By evening, around 300 of the beaming and excited tribals were administered their second doses of the vaccines in the comfort of their own hamlet.

Officials said that normally, it takes several hours to reach the remote village in a hilly forested area of Jawhar, making it out of bounds for the local health workers.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray lauded the unique initiative and said that its “a great example of how modern technology can be utilised for the benefit of the common masses.”

“Maharashtra has always been at the forefront of implementing innovative initiatives — transporting vaccines by drones has made reaching health care for the people in the remote tribal regions much easier and wider,” said Thackeray in a congratulatory message to the health and district authorities.

A district official recounted how connectivity was always an issue for the tribals owing to no roads, thick jungles and the tribals had to trudge many kilometres in such conditions to access basic medical facilities in bigger villages or towns.

With the steps taken by the state Health Ministry, it will be easier to give the jabs to the tribals, save a lot of time and cover a wider population living in the far flung areas, he said, requesting anonymity.

The successful initiative was possible with the efforts of Blue Infinity Innovation Lab and IIFL Foundation in collaboration with the state Public Health Department.

The sturdy drone, with a capacity of around 5 kg reached its destination from the stadium with top officials like Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Dr. Pradeep Vyas, Commissioner Dr. Ramaswamy, Collector Manik Gursal, Zilla Parishad CEO Siddaram Salimath, ZP President (Ms) Vaidehi Vadhan, Medical Officer Dr. Dayanand Suryavanshi, Dr. Milind Chavan, Dr. Sagar Patil, health officials and workers were present to witness the event.

Dr. Vyas, expressing “satisfaction” at the venture, said that in the coming days, using drones, the government will make efforts to transport medicines, blood, organs for transplant and other emergency health related things from place to place and even in the inaccessible areas in the shortest possible time.

After the successful experiment, the health department plans to use it more extensively for purposes like sending essential medicines, blood bags and vaccines for women, children or emergency cases in the days ahead, said the official.

Now, the government plans to deploy drone technology in certain other districts including the tribal dominated Nandurbar.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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