South-East Asia Regional ITAG Meeting
The South-East Asia Regional ITAG meeting took place in June 15-19th in New Delhi, India. The main agenda topics included measles elimination/rubella control and the creation of verification committees, polio eradication, maternal neonatal tetanus elimination, seasonal influenza, new vaccine introduction, and data quality. Every country in the region now has a NITAG, with the exception of Timor-Leste, which is in the process of establishing one.
A side meeting was organized with the Chairs and Secretariats from all of the NITAGs as well as representatives from Timor Leste. India, Indonesia, and Nepal presented on their NITAG establishment and operations.
- Nepal described how the orientation led by WHO and the CDC at the time the NITAG (known as NCIP) was established helped members to understand the role of an independent advisory body and the in-depth analysis required prior to the decision to introduce a new vaccine. The NCIP has been a successful at increasing country ownership of immunization-related decisions and at withstanding influence from manufacturers, although this continues to be a challenge.
- Indonesia described the structure and organization of their advisory committee (known as ITAGI) and the difficulties they are currently facing due to anti-vaccine campaigns in the media. The ITAGI has issued a number of recommendations on the immunization program that have been implemented including the introduction of HIb, Td, a second dose of measles, and IPV. Preparations are underway for a switch from tOPV to bOPV in 2016 and a nationwide measles/rubella campaign in 2018.
- India reconstituted its NITAG (known as NTAGI) in 2013 and, while it is still formalizing its processes, uses a standing technical sub-committee to deliberate on and draft recommendations, which are then endorsed by the full NTAGI. The Indian NTAGI has a unique immunization technical support unit that houses the Secretariat, allowing a dedicated team to undertake the dossier preparation and meeting planning. Other participants expressed the need for support in strengthening the processes around dossier preparation and evidence evaluation, accessing data, increasing member engagement, broadening the scope of topics considered by the NITAGs beyond new vaccine introduction, and addressing vaccine quality and safety issues.
All participants expressed interest in cross-learning and the establishment of a regional network of NITAGs to regularly share experience and strengthen capacity of the members and secretariats. SIVAC and WHO hope to collaborate to organize an opportunity in the next 6-9 months for the NITAGs to increase capacity and continue to share their experiences while further refining the mechanisms by which they can collaborate.