Close to 150 members of the International Association of Immunization Managers (IAIM) were in Istanbul in late February to discuss routine immunisation programmes, polio eradication and the emerging threat of Ebola in West Africa.
The Association was launched in late 2013 to raise standards and share skills among officials and health professionals involved in vaccination around the world. At the meeting in Istanbul, Prof. David Salisbury, former Director of Immunisation in the United Kingdom’s Department of Health, was elected President of the IAIM’s first Governing Council.
‘For me, this two-day event was hugely reassuring because we started two years ago with a virtual organisation and now we can fill a room with people closely involved in immunisation programmes,’ Prof Salisbury told Vaccines Today.
While this was the first full meeting of the Association, Prof Salisbury said its work is already well under way. Three international exchanges have already taken place, giving members a chance to learn how immunisation programmes work around the world:
- An IAIM member from Saudi Arabia has visited the US Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta to look at surveillance systems
- A US official visited Ireland to learn about effective implementation of HPV vaccine rollout
- Another US member went to Albania to study their vaccine cold chain and information management systems.
The IAIM website includes toolkits for people working in immunisation covering everything from vaccine safety and supply chains to disease surveillance and immunisation advocacy. An online forum for exchanging good practice is also proving attractive to members keen to understand how others in their field operate.
‘Clearly, one of the important things over coming years is to establish sustainable funding for the Association. So far we have been very lucky to have funding from the Gates Foundation and from GAVI who pay membership fees for programme managers in the countries where they work,’ said Prof Salisbury.