This blog post was originally published by the International Association of Immunization Managers.

Dawda Sowe and Aisha Alshammary are on the front lines of global immunization efforts. As the national immunization managers for the Gambia and Saudi Arabia, respectively, they are responsible for managing their countries’ complex immunization programs. Yet like many immunization managers around the world, they often lack the support they need to keep up with this rapidly changing field of public health. That is why they joined the International Association of Immunization Managers (IAIM), the first and only international professional association for immunization managers, which offers immunization managers opportunities to learn from their colleagues in the field and build management and leadership capacity to effectively manage their immunization programs today and to plan for the future.

This year, Dawda and Aisha both received with IAIM Training Scholarships to participate in the Advanced Course on Vaccinology (ADVAC), a well-known two-week training program for immunization decision makers that addresses many current issues in the field. The IAIM Training Scholarship Program, available to IAIM Immunization Manager Members, provides awardees with opportunities to enroll in trainings, short courses and seminars to enhance their capacity to manage their immunization programs.

During the course, held in May in France, Dawda and Aisha met immunization professionals from around the world and learned how international organizations and partners collaborate to ensure that vaccine financing is coordinated, and that available vaccines are safe and high-quality.

“The ADVAC course was an opportunity to learn new trends, knowledge, and technology in immunization services, vaccine development processes and rationale for inclusion of such vaccines in routine immunization programs,” said Dawda. Aisha stated that she had been hoping to attend the course since she began working as the national immunization manager three years ago.

Dawda and Aisha also shared some of the most surprising lessons learned from the training program.

“I found the challenges faced in developing vaccines for HIV to be particularly interesting,” Dawda said. He also gained valuable insights on vaccine development for outbreak situations, such as Ebola. “The research methodology and clinical trial ethics were the most attractive and surprising thing I learned,” said Aisha.

Both Dawda and Aisha plan to apply the knowledge gained at ADVAC to their immunization programs.

“As the national programme manager, I will organize a training with regional managers in order to share this new information,” he said. “The new information will also be used in guiding the immunization programme and will be the basis for future decision making and programme planning.” Aisha plans to share the course materials with her staff, and may conduct similar courses with her team of coordinators, physicians and nurses.

Dawda and Aisha encourage other IAIM members to take advantage of the scholarship. “I am confident that it will improve my decision-making capabilities as EPI manager,” Aisha said about the knowledge she gained through program. “The training scholarships will give immunization managers the opportunity to attend courses that are moderated by renowned immunization professionals and experts. This will expand their views and understanding which will help to shape their routine [immunization] programmes,” said Dawda.

Learn about IAIM membership and the Training Scholarship Program, and find out how to apply. Applications for the current round of the IAIM Training Scholarship Program are accepted until July 10, 2015

Congratulations to Dawda and Aisha on completing their ADVAC course!