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Reflections on the 2023 ADVAC program

Dr Stefanie Vaccher, PhD – Senior Research Fellow, Immunisation and Health Systems Strengthening, Burnet Institute 

Earlier this year, ARIA member Dr Meru Sheel (University of Sydney, Australian National University), Professor Michelle Giles (Monash Health, Alfred Health) and I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Advanced Course in Vaccinology (ADVAC) program in Annecy, France. 

ADVAC is an annual training program for vaccination decision-makers such as academic experts, industry leaders, government officials and non-governmental organisations. The aim of the two-week program is to facilitate critical decision-making in vaccinology by equipping participants with the skills needed to translate scientific and epidemiological evidence into effective vaccine and immunisation-related policy.  

Participating in ADVAC gave us a greater awareness and understanding of the full spectrum of vaccinology – from development to trial, manufacturing, regulation and community engagement.
Below are some key insights from our ADVAC 2023 experience:

  • Supporting regional National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs): In cases where smaller countries may not have the capacity to build individual NITAGs, we could consider uniting neighbouring nations under a regional NITAG program. The establishment of a regional NITAG could allow collective access to resources and experts that could strengthen vaccine support, policy and roll-out. With a regional NITAG currently operating in the Caribbean, there is potential for select Pacific Island Countries to adopt a similar model in future. 
  • Examining all aspects of new vaccine introduction: Evolving technology, knowledge and funding facilitate the introduction of new vaccines and technologies, as well as greater access to existing vaccines internationally. Awareness of these developments, which can help to inform planned and active projects, is important. A regional example includes the human papillomavirus vaccine now being rolled out in Vanuatu; other countries are currently planning similar implementation. Approaches to education and training on potential future uses of microarray patches were also discussed. 
  • The continued importance of vaccine safety: While necessary, receiving a vaccination is a practice that many adults and children associate with anxiety and pain. As health professionals and vaccine administers, being conscious of this and working with patients to make vaccination a more positive experience will ensure uptake is strengthened in the long term. 
  • Building an international network: A diverse mix of participants made for many nuanced conversations and networking opportunities. ADVAC created the potential for a range of opportunities to collaborate with new colleagues on future local, regional and international vaccinology projects. 

More information about the ADVAC program can be found here.