With 22 small countries/territories, the Caribbean faced a great challenge in stablishing NITAGs. Given the history of Caribbean countries working successfully together in health, the Health Ministers took the wise decision in 2017 to establish a sub-regional NITAG. This is an efficient mechanism to provide independent advice on immunization to the Ministers of Health in keeping with the recommendations of the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) and PAHO’S Regional Immunization Action Plan (RIAP).
The Caribbean Immunization Technical Advisory Group (CiTAG) was launched during the 33rd Caribbean Immunization Managers’ meeting, February 26-28, 2018. The CiTAG, an independent group of experts in the fields of Epidemiology, Public Health, Microbiology, Paediatrics and Tropical Medicine, is chaired by Dr. J. Peter Figueroa Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology and HIV/AIDS at The University of the West Indies and will advise Ministers of Health on immunization through the Council for Human and Social Development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). A representative from the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office also participated as an observer.
Recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and outbreaks of vaccine preventable illnesses in neighboring countries are a stark reminder that EPI programs must be resilient and vigilant for maintaining the polio, measles, CRS and Rubella free status of the Caribbean. Priority areas for the CiTAG include sustaining confidence in immunization; promoting the strengthening/development of legislative frameworks to support vaccination; enhancing data quality through implementation of nominal electronic registers; surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases; strengthening laboratory capacities and linkages between EPI, surveillance, laboratory and the private sector and building capacity of EPI managers though training.