Building capacity to respond to vaccine safety concerns

WHO/Natasha Allen

Workshop on vaccine safety event management and communications, 24–28 February 2014, Astana, Kazakhstan

Managing a country’s immunization programme requires in-depth knowledge of the technical side of vaccination. Increasingly, however, programme managers are also being asked to respond to communications issues caused by real or perceived vaccine-related events (VRE); issues for which they may not have been trained.

To address the need for capacity building in this area, the first in a series of multi-country training workshops on vaccine safety event management and communications was held on 24–28 February 2014 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The overall objective of this first workshop was to improve the capacity, quality and effectiveness of responses to vaccine safety related events. WHO/Europe organized the course for ministry of health officials (national immunization programme managers and staff in charge of immunization communications and vaccine safety, national regulatory authority staff) of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  

Region-wide initiative

Training materials included the recently published “Vaccine safety events: managing the communications response - a guide for ministry of health EPI managers and health promotion units” and a vaccine safety management guideline document currently under development by the Regional Office. Both documents were initiated as a direct response to a call from Member States for technical guidance and support on vaccine safety management and communications – particularly in circumstances where real or perceived vaccine-related adverse events are affecting trust and confidence.

Additional multi-country training courses are planned in 2014 for other subregions of the European Region.

Focus areas

The specific objectives of the training workshop were to:

  • provide training in the management of adverse events following immunization by national- and district-level health staff;
  • provide training for immunization programme managers in communicating with the media, the public and health workers about vaccine safety issues;
  • provide participants with insights relating to the anti-vaccine movements, and to suggest ways of handling them;
  • explore with participants ways to minimize the occurrence of vaccine safety events;
  • field-test all workshop training materials and to modify them accordingly;
  • train a cadre of professionals who will be able to run similar courses at national levels in the future as needed.