WHO offers road map for new vaccine introduction

The introduction of new vaccines to national immunization plans has historically been a contentious issue, with some arguing that introducing a new vaccine might add extra burden to the existing immunization system, while others maintain that a new vaccine would strengthen the system by increasing coverage.

To help countries achieve the maximum impact of new vaccines, the World Health Organization has released new guidance on how to introduce new vaccines to countries' existing immunization programs.

WHO defines a vaccine introduction as an addition to an immunization program of a vaccine against a disease not previously covered in that program, a new combination vaccine or a vaccine that uses a new route of administration compared to what's currently used, such as an injectable vaccine replacing an oral one.

The guidance document outlines key factors for countries to consider when deciding whether to introduce a new vaccine--including the public health priority of the target disease, disease burden and whether alternative prevention and control methods are a better option than vaccination. Other considerations include whether the proposed vaccine is economically and financially viable and whether the current healthcare system could handle the introduction of the new vaccine.

For countries that decide to introduce a new vaccine, WHO recommends choosing a service-delivery strategy and schedule for the vaccine as well as ramping up cold chain and vaccine-management systems, training health workers to manage and administer the new vaccine and promoting its use through public health campaigns.

Since its introduction in 1974, WHO's global Expanded Programme on Immunization has prevented millions of deaths and illnesses as a result of vaccination recommendations against 6 diseases--tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis and measles--according to the report. As of 2012, an estimated 83% of the world's children under one year old received all three doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine.

Two additional vaccines--for hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b--have since been recommended by WHO for universal use, and starting in 2000, many countries have added these two vaccines to their national immunization programs.

- read the guidance document (PDF)