18 December 2023, Addis Ababa: The World Health Organization (WHO) Ethiopia’s Country Office hosted the Inter country, capacity building workshop for the National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) of the host Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Somalia from the WHO EMRO Region. The NITAG’s capacity building workshop was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 11 to 15 December 2023.
The overall objective of the workshop was to strengthen NITAGs members and secretariats of participating countries on the evidence to recommendation process in immunization and on the NITAG operations. The specific objectives were to reinforce NITAG members’ capacities on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and mode of operations of an efficient NITAG, to orient on NITAG maturity tool use and share experience across the region for peer-to-peer learning, to develop evidence-based recommendation using standard guidance and tools and to share experience among NITAGs on operations and evidence to recommendation process.
The National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) are bodies composed of independent national experts tasked with advising national health authorities and national immunization programmes on immunization policies and strategies. These advisory bodies provide country-specific recommendations to political authorities, ministries of health and immunization programmes, based on evidence available at the national, regional, and international levels. NITAGs can also be leveraged as an advocacy tool for informed stakeholder engagement in standard Immunization policy design and immunization strategies, as well as for partners supporting these strategies in countries.
“These advisory bodies have been contributing to the national decision-making on immunization by adapting the WHO global and regional guidance’s to the local context, thereby intensifying the credibility and sustainability of the immunization policy and its acceptance by the population.” Said Dr. Nonhlanhla Dlamini, WHO Ethiopia representative a.i.
As of end June 2023, the member states from 42 countries in the WHO region have established a NITAG. However, the 2022 WHO-UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC) reported that 31 members states have a functional NITAG (as at end 2022).
This capacity strengthening is therefore intended to reinforce their capacity for enhancing the countries immunization programme and evidence-based decision making. This intercountry capacity building workshop would benefit the NITAGs members through provision of standard modular training in addition to peer-to-peer learning.
Ethiopia’s NITAG has been established in 2016 with 12 members and one chairperson and they have been contributing to the country immunization decision making by providing policy guidance such as introduction of new vaccines, including HPV, COVID-19, the Hep B birth dose, etc. into the country immunization program.
A total of 69 delegates from 6 countries attended the workshop which includes NITAG members, technical secretariat and core members, technical staff from WHO Head Quarter, the Africa regional Office (AFRO), inter country support team of the Eastern and Southern Africa (IST/ESA) region, targeted country offices and partners, as well as NITAG experts from Task Force for Global health, Centers for Diseases Control, and NITAG Support Hub (NISH)/University of Cape Town.
The target countries were selected based on the improvement plans guided by the NITAG assessment conducted in 2023, a recent renewal of memberships and a newly established member, the identified non-functional group due to capacity building issues and availability of functioning tools.
The workshop has given an opportunity for newly deployed NITAG members, to build their capacity on evidence collection, synthesis, and analysis during decision making and recommendation.
Moreover, country’s experiences were shared on NITAG operations and EtR among participant countries through peer-learning and participant country NITAGs updated their Implementation manual procedures, advanced their specific policy questions for EtR in order their workplans to guide the planned activities and identified the Technical Advisor (TA) needs for each country NITAG. Further, participants have benefited from participating the learning process of developing six different policy questions that they were developing during the workshop each using their specific policy questions.
NITAG internal manual of procedures updated (Ethiopia, Mauritius, Namibia, Lesotho) and drafted (Somalia, Seychelles).
Evidence to recommendation process initiated for disease specific topic, therefore the evidence tables have been drafted for HPV single dose (Lesotho, Seychelles), Malaria vaccines (Ethiopia), PCV (Somalia), MMR (Namibia), MMRV (Mauritius)
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