Voice from the field: Dr Mimi Lhamu
In April and Ocotber SAGE (the strategic advisory group of experts on immunization) gathers together to provide guidance on overall global policies and strategies, ranging from vaccines and technology, research and development, to delivery of immunization and its linkages with other health interventions. NITAG members are invited to attend the meetings and this October 2016 the Chair of the NITAG of Bhutan, Dr Mimi Lhamu will come to Geneva and attend the meeting.
How did you come to work in immunization policies?
I am a trained pediatrician and I have been working in this field for the past 16 years. Infectious diseases and vaccines are one my special interests and I work closely with the vaccine preventable disease program. In 2014 I became the member of NCIP (the NITAG of Bhutan) and the following year I was elected Chair. I also work as the Surveillance Medical Officer for the vaccine preventable diseases program and am a Member of the National AEFI (adverse events following immunization) committee.
What does it take to be a successful NITAG member?
You need to be well versed in the country's infectious disease epidemiology of the country, vaccines and vaccinology as well as issuing evidence based decisions. You also need to be well prepared to deal with vaccine hesitancy groups (luckily we don't have any in Bhutan).
What are some of the specific challenges in Bhutan?
We lack trained human resources and we are certainly less exposed to how NITAGs function in other countries. Regarding the NITAG, we need to evaluate how our committee functions, which, ever since its establishement, has never been assessed. In addition , NCIP does not yet have a work plan.
How do you see the future for immunization policies in Bhutan?
We have a bright future ahead of us except for the fact that we are no longer eligible for Gavi funded vaccines and so introductions of new vaccines will be more challenging. Bhutan is yet to face any Vaccine hesitancy groups. The public have great faith in the immunization system and we are committed to maintaining high levels of immunization coverage as well as strict monitoring and investigation of all serious AEFIs.