Second WHO/UNICEF Technical Guideline Group Consultation

Effects and Safety of Vitamin A Supplementation in Populations

16-18 March 2011, Geneva, Switzerland


Vitamin A deficiency remains a significant public health problem with an estimated 190 million children and 19 million pregnant women affected globally1. Intensive efforts remain critically important to prevent and control vitamin A deficiency. The most current WHO guidelines on vitamin A supplementation were published in 19972 and 19983. Since this time, knowledge has expanded.

In October 2009, a formal Vitamin A Supplementation Guideline Group was established to provide advice to WHO and UNICEF on updating recommendations on the Effects and Safety of Vitamin Supplementation in neonates, infants 1-5 months of age, infants and children 6-59 months of age, pregnant women, HIV-positive pregnant women and postpartum women, following the new WHO Guideline Development Process established by the Guidelines Review Committee (GRC) in 2007. The process described in the WHO Handbook for Guideline Development has been adopted as of January 1, 2009.

The Vitamin A Supplementation Guideline Group, guided by a WHO/UNICEF Steering Committee, includes experts with a variety of expertise, is a mix of both genders and has representation from all WHO Regions.

The role of the Guideline Group is to advise WHO and UNICEF on:

  • The scope of the guidelines and priority questions for which systematic reviews of evidence will be commissioned
  • The choice of important outcomes for decision-making and developing recommendations
  • The interpretation of the evidence with explicit consideration of the overall balance of risks and benefits
  • The final drafting of formulating recommendations, taking into account existing evidence as well as diverse values and preferences

WHO is convening a second WHO Vitamin A Supplementation Guideline Group Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from 16 to 18 March 2011 to continue with the process. This meeting is a follow-up to the meeting that took place in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2009 to provide input on the scope of the guidelines, choice of priority questions and identification of important outcomes for decision-making.

The main objectives of this second Vitamin A Supplementation Guideline Group Meeting are to:

  • Present the systematic reviews of the evidence and the GRADE Evidence profiles for vitamin A supplementation and discuss findings.
  • Present and discuss draft evidence-informed recommendations and determine the strength of the recommendations, considering the balance of evidence for benefits and harms, and taking into account costs, values and preferences for neonates, infants 1-5 months of age, infants and children 6-59 months of age, pregnant women, HIV-positive pregnant women, and postpartum women.
  • Define implications for research in the areas discussed.
  • Agree on a ‘review by’ date for the guideline validity, considering the ongoing research and controversies.

1 WHO. Global prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in populations at risk 1995-2005. Geneva, World Health Organization, in press.
2 WHO/UNICEF/IVACG. Vitamin A supplements: a guide to their use in the treatment and prevention of vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia - Second edition. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1997.
3WHO/MI. Safe vitamin A dosage during pregnancy and lactation. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1998.

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