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Droning on – technological developments advance healthcare in the remote Pacific Islands

Crystal Gao, Editorials and Publications Team PMSA


In the current age of technological advancement, the evolution of technology has become a double-edged sword. Everywhere we turn, technology is either doing too much, or too little…but now, in the remote islands of Vanuatu, there will finally be a case of technology that is being used “just right”. Starting in September 2018, drones will begin to fly across Vanuatu, delivering crucial vaccines to the 65 inhabited islands of this volcanic archipelago (1).

To truly put this into context, currently only 20/65 of these islands are accessible by air, and the transport infrastructure is limited at best…roads are lacking, run-down, and frequently inaccessible due to weather conditions. Up until now, healthcare workers had to physically hike over wild, mountainous terrain in order to deliver medical aid to the more remote places in Vanuatu, at great risk to their own safety and wellbeing. Getting medications such as vaccines to the correct storage facilities are always a battle against time, and any mistake or unforeseen mishap is both time-consuming and costly (2,3).

Currently, only 80 – 85% of children in Vanuatu are being vaccinated, with the remaining 15 – 20% missing out simply because they were too hard to reach. But now, with the incorporation of drone technology into the medical infrastructure of Vanuatu, it is hoped that even the most remote hospitals and villages can be reached (2). At present, the Republic of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health is working closely with UNICEF, as well a number of independent drone companies, in order to finalise the protocols and contracts to allow this project to commence (2). Should this initiative be successful in Vanuatu, it will likely be introduced across all the other remote islands of the South Pacific.

With the introduction of drone-based vaccine delivery in the remote areas of Vanuatu, we are hoping that vaccination rates will increase to near 100%. Not only is this a relatively new way of utilising drone-based technology and incorporating it into medical aid, but this project is also a source of hope for the people of Vanuatu, and indeed the South Pacific region, in ensuring that their future generations grow up happy, healthy, and protected against preventable diseases.



1. UNICEF. Drone-based Vaccine Deliveries in Vanuatu. UNICEF July 2017. [cited 9/9/18]. Available online at http://unicefstories.org/drones/vanuatu/

2. Strickland E. Drone Delivery Becomes a Reality in Remote Pacific Islands. IEEE May 2018. [cited 9/9/18]. Available online at https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/drone-delivery-becomes-a-reality-in-remote-pacific-islands

3. Unicefstories. Vanuatu: Revolutionary technology for lifesaving vaccine deliveries. UNICEF June 2017. [cited 9/9/18]. Available online at http://unicefstories.org/2017/06/11/vanuatu-revolutionary-technology-for-lifesaving-vaccine-deliveries/

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