Based on the successful implementation of NITAGs worldwide, several governments have expressed interest in establishing such committees. However, many low- and middle-income countries worldwide lack the necessary infrastructure to get NITAGs off the ground and running.
SIVAC provides support to develop sustainable NITAGs in a country-driven process involving various steps.
Supporting NITAG Development Based on National Priorities
Initially, SIVAC visits countries to evaluate both the feasibility (e.g., in terms of availability of national experts) and the willingness of authorities to set up NITAGs.
If conditions are met and countries request to collaborate with SIVAC, the next step is the development of a concept paper. This is done by a small team of local experts including representatives of the ministry of health, universities, and research institutions. The concept paper, developed based on WHO guidelines, specifies the process to establish the NITAG and its terms of reference. After validation of the concept paper by national authorities, the NITAG is established by ministerial decree. Throughout this whole process, SIVAC provides input and identifies areas where technical support may be needed.
Empowering NITAGs to Ensure Sustainability
After the inaugural session of the NITAG, SIVAC provides logistical and technical support to the NITAG and its executive secretariat in the following areas:
- Committee and secretariat functioning (procedures, documentation of activities, conflict of interest issues, etc.)
- Preparation of scientific background documents
- Strengthening of technical and scientific capacities (e.g., organization of dedicated training sessions and visits to other NITAGs)
- Organization of meetings
- Planning for the financial sustainability of the NITAG
The expected duration of SIVAC support is 3 years but it may vary depending on the country. The support that SIVAC provides decreases over the period of collaboration, so as to enable the committee and executive secretariat to reach full autonomy in their activities.
Regional Approach in West Africa
SIVAC has a specific approach to NITAG creation within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Provided that many West African countries do not have the capacity to establish NITAGs (due, for example, to lack of expertise, recent conflicts, and budget issues), it was initially proposed to establish an Inter-State NITAG (IS-ITAG), which could be housed at the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
A feasibility and relevance study revealed that countries are in favor of establishing an IS-ITAG but are also very interested in setting up their own NITAGs in the near future. This was discussed with the project funder, partners, and high-level representatives of ECOWAS countries; it was decided that the priority is to generalize support for the creation of NITAGs. To this end, the SIVAC methodology is adapted and transferred to WAHO, who leads this activity.
Starting in 2011, a couple of countries will receive joint support from WAHO, SIVAC, and other technical partners (WHO/IST and WHO EVIPNet) to establish NITAGs. After the end of SIVAC, WAHO will carry on supporting the creation of NITAGs in the sub-region.