PARIS, January 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The inaugural meeting of Mozambique's Committee of Experts on Immunization (Comité de Peritos para a Imunização, CoPI) was held in Maputo on January 7, 2011.

The CoPI is the second National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) in a sub-Saharan African country eligible for funding from the GAVI Alliance. The first was established in Côte d'Ivoire in January 2010. The Supporting Independent Immunization and Vaccine Advisory Committees (SIVAC) Initiative played an instrumental role in the creation of both committees. Implemented by the Agence de Médecine Préventive (AMP) in partnership with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), SIVAC works with local, regional, and international stakeholders (e.g., World Health Organization, WHO) to support low- and middle-income countries worldwide to set up or strengthen NITAGs.

The role of the CoPI is to make recommendations to government authorities on all decisions regarding immunization and vaccines such as introduction of new vaccines, appropriate vaccine schedules, financing, and research priorities and strategies.

"NITAGs have become a particularly important advisory resource in light of the complexities and advancements in immunization, the higher cost of new vaccines, and the introduction of new vaccine technologies," said Dr. Alfred da Silva, executive director of AMP. "We anticipate that the CoPI will enable the government of Mozambique to formulate contextually appropriate immunization policies and programs, increasing vaccination coverage and improving public health."

The Mozambican NITAG is composed of 15 independent, national experts from various disciplines (e.g., epidemiology, public health, pediatrics, microbiology, infectious diseases, health economics). The Minister of Health appoints members for a four-year term, renewable once. Up to 20 permanent observers, including representatives from WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund, may attend meetings but cannot vote or participate in closed sessions. Additional individuals may be invited to take part in discussions as needed. These include scientists, experts from health-related fields, representatives of civil society or religious denominations, and personnel from the Ministry of Health.

Moving forward, SIVAC will continue to provide the CoPI with logistical and technical support. Depending on the committees' specific needs, this may include assistance to its Executive Secretariat in the organization of meetings, the identification of priorities, the preparation of scientific documents, and the drafting of recommendations.