Immunisation programme managers are the “unsung heroes” of disease prevention, according to Professor David Salisbury, President of the new International Association of Immunization Managers (IAIM).
But, says Salisbury, the success of the Decades of Vaccines initiative – a global effort to extend immunisation to all – rests on the shoulders of those working behind-the-scenes to make vaccination programmes work.
“These individuals are the unsung heroes of immunisation programmes who make them happen all over the world. It’s on them that a great deal of the burden of the Decade of Vaccines (DoV) falls. If the goals of the DoV are to be achieved it will be down to national managers,” he told Vaccines Today.
Salisbury said the newly-established IAIM will help to establish and share best-practice between programme managers around the world. He noted that informal networks of immunisation programme managers already exist on an ad hoc basis but formalising these relationships can accelerate information exchange and raise standards globally.
For example, experts from the UK and Albania worked together closely to establish a computerised automated information system. Formal networks have also been effective in some regions, notably the English-speaking Caribbean, according to Salisbury.
“The IAIM tries to formalise these arrangements so that it’s not just about information exchange but also about knowing your counterparts and facilitating peer-to-peer exchanges. People can go to another country, learn from the experience and bring that expertise home. That’s one of the tangible benefits that can come from this,” he said.
Europe has had limited success in sustaining these kinds of networks, Salisbury noted, due in part to language differences. The IAIM has been working on ways to overcome the language barrier.
“The language issue is not trivial. The starting language will be English but we are interested in translating web-based and print material into French, and there have also been requests for us to consider Spanish so we will continue to discuss this.”