Adding new vaccines to the routine immunization program: the role of NITAGs
On 21 September, 2016 a workshop was held in Beijing, China to discuss the process of adding new vaccines to the routine immunization program through a strong national immunization technical advisory group (NITAG).
China’s EPI system was established in 1978 provides government-purchases vaccines at no charge to parents of children up to 14 years of age. Initially, the program included vaccines for 6 infectious diseases (tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and measles). The schedule has been expanded three times: in 2002 to include hepatitis B vaccine, in 2007 to include rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, meningococcal, and Japanese encephalitis vaccines, and in 2016 when IPV was added. Six vaccines that are recommended by WHO for use in all immunization programs - Hib, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, varicella, human papillomavirus, and influenza) - are not included in China’s EPI system and as such the government is seeking to strengthen its decision making processes so it can effectively consider introduction of these vaccines.
The workshop was co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) China Representative Office, the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association (CPMA), and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). Participants included EPI leadership from the National Health and Family Planning Commission (Ministry of Health), members of China’s NITAG, provincial CDC EPI leadership, UNICEF, and CPMA public health leadership fellows.
The objectives of the meeting were to
(1) Share knowledge and best practices for new vaccine introduction and NITAG strengthening from global, regional, and national perspectives;
(2) Make recommendations to improve the ability of China’s EPI system to add new vaccines to the program through a strong NITAG.
Representatives from NITAGs in China, Germany, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and the United States shared their experiences, and a fruitful discussion was held. Partners committed to supporting China as it looks to strengthening its evidence-based immunization decision making process.