The rapid escalation and global spread of COVID 19 is a major concern for all countries. A growing number of countries have put in place public health measures to limit transmission of the virus, consequently affecting other health services, including immunization. NITAGs have a key role to play in helping their Ministry of Health during the pandemic and advising on how best to maintain immunization activities now and plan for tomorrow. These recommendations may need to be revised frequently as countries change strategies and more is known about the virus. This is a task that NITAG secretariat and NITAG members are equipped to do, usually not at this speed nor in such unsettling environment but with so much dedication and expertise. As the Director General righteously claims “we are in this together” and the Global NITAG Network will keep supporting you.
- South Africa: NAGI, the South African NITAG, issued short term (during the lockdown) and medium term (post-lockdown) recommendations. The guidance is attached.
- Zimbabwe: The NITAG published a series of recommendations, including short, medium and long term. For the short term (during the lockdown), the NITAG advises to:
- Continue vaccinating as per the Zimbabwe Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) schedule in all facilities.
- Outreach services should be suspended for the duration of the lockdown
- All children presenting to a health centre for any reason should be screened and those who are eligible for vaccination and have no contraindication to vaccine administration, should be administered with the relevant vaccine(s).
- There is need for innovative and effective communication strategies for community mobilization to encourage communities to sustain demand for routine immunization.
- VPD surveillance should be maintained and reinforced to enable early detection, notification and management of VPD cases.
- The United Arab Emirates: Based on recommendations from the NITAG, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) issued a circular with recommendations on immunization services during the pandemic. Attaching two circulars: one from UAE MoHAP and another from Abu Dhabi Public Health Center.
- France: the French NITAG published two recommendations (French only):
- The first one stresses the importance to maintain mandatory immunization childhood program during the pandemic, and to delay any vaccination for people aged >2 years old except for post-exposition vaccination and vaccination for contacts at the end of the lockdown.
- The second one recommends to delay the influenza campaign in La Réunion at the end of the lockdown or until the end of May.
- A third recommendation recommends to delay the catch-up vaccination against pneumococcal infections in the context of pandemic COVID-19, except for newborn babies aged less than 2 years.
- Latvia: The NITAG issued a statement NITAG highlighting the importance of ensuring the timely vaccination of children within the national immunization calendar in a timely manner and in no case to delay or postpone it, also recalling that the immune response to vaccination and the time after vaccination do not in any way interfere with the child's immune system ability to protect against other seasonal viruses or other infections, including potential Covid-19 infection. The NITAG emphasized the fact that family doctors in their practices should organize the admission times to respect the basic principles of social distancing and avoid patients to meet.
- Portugal: https://www.dgs.pt/a-direccao-geral-da-saude/comunicados-e-despachos-do-director-geral/cumprimento-do-programa-nacional-de-vacinacao-durante-a-epidemia-de-covid-19-medidas-de-excecao.aspx
- Bolivia : The NITAG issued a list of recommendations, including specific ones for influenza and measles vaccination as well as recommendations during the lockdown and after. The document is attached (SPANISH).
- Chile: CAVEI issued a series of recommendations based on global and regional recommendations, including maintaining immunization for newborn babies, prioritizing vaccination against measles rubella pneumococcal and polio, prioritizing flu for the most vulnerable and delaying new vaccine introduction. The document is attached. (SPANISH)
- United States: CDC published up-to-date guidance on adult immunization and childhood immunization, as well as vaccine catch-up guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/schedule-changes.html
- Australia: ATAGI next meeting is scheduled in May via teleconference and a number of ATAGI members are feeding in to the formal mechanisms which have been established by the Department of Health to support COVID-19 containment and management. ATAGI issued guiding principles for maintaining immunisation services.
- China: NIAC did not issue a recommendation but its secretariat did publish a vaccination guideline on vaccination for those missed doses during the closure of vaccination clinics.