Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Immunization highlights: 2010

Supporting countries in evidence-based decision-making

New Chair of SAGE takes office

Professor Helen Rees shaking hands with Professor David Salisbury
WHO/C. Scudamore
Professor Helen Rees took over in September as the SAGE Chair

Professor Helen Rees, internationally-recognized expert in vaccination and one of South Africa's most well-known women scientists, took over in September as the Chair of WHO's leading advisory group on immunization, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, or SAGE. Professor Rees took over from Professor David Salisbury, who had served as Chair since 2005, and had reached the end of his term.

Diverse topics were discussed by SAGE in 2010. They included:

  • ensuring that further efforts to reduce measles mortality focus on strengthening routine immunization;
  • polio eradication;
  • typhoid, influenza and pertussis vaccines;
  • revision of the vaccine prequalification procedure;
  • impact of the introduction of new vaccines on immunization and health systems;
  • HIV vaccine trial results;
  • grading and review of evidence;
  • optimization of immunization schedules;
  • sustainable adoption and financing of new vaccines;
  • accessibility to affordable vaccines; and
  • epidemiology of the unimmunized and gender-related issues.

Huge efforts were invested in improvements to the SAGE web site. Key changes are the addition of a SAGE "newsroom", short biographies of members, more comprehensive information on working groups; and publication of the site in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

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Four new WHO position papers on vaccines published

Screen shot of the pertussis vaccines position paper published in 2010

In 2010, four new or updated position papers were published in the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record — on cholera, polio, rabies and pertussis vaccines. As with all WHO position papers on vaccines, prior to publication, the papers were reviewed by experts within and outside WHO and follow the recommendations of WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization.

Substantive supporting material — a summary, grading tables of scientific evidence on which the paper is based, key references and presentation slides — is posted with all new and updated position papers.

The position paper web pages now exist in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish as well as English.

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NITAG establishment and strengthening continues

The front cover of the
The journal "Vaccine" published a supplement on NITAGs in April

In partnership with the Supporting National Independent Immunization and Vaccine Advisory Committees (SIVAC) Initiative, WHO continued its efforts to assist countries in establishing and strengthening their National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs). One of the key elements of this work was the development of a supplement on NITAGs in the journal "Vaccine". An article providing guidance on the establishment and strengthening of NITAGs was included as was comprehensive information on the functioning of 15 established NITAGs.

A second activity was collaboration in the establishment of the SIVAC-run NITAG Resource Centre. This online repository houses information, tools and briefings on the improvement of evidence-based decision-making on vaccines and immunization at national level. In order to monitor the evolution of establishment of NITAGs, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Reporting Form which all WHO Member States are asked to complete once a year now includes process indicators on NITAGs.

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