This post was originally published by the Vaccines Work blog. 

Immunization managers are on the front lines of global health, helping expand the full benefits of immunization to all people. Through effective management of the many elements of an immunization program, immunization managers bring the world closer to achieving the goals outlined in the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

Yet despite the clear importance of their work, immunization managers are too often under-trained and lack a support network when seeking solutions to the unique challenges they face.

In an effort to address this gap, last year the Sabin Vaccine Institute—with the support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — launched the International Association of Immunization Managers (IAIM), the first-ever international professional association for immunization managers. IAIM brings immunization managers together to share knowledge and solutions for managing effective and sustainable immunization programs. To help achieve this we offer a range of opportunities and benefits, such as access to training and cutting-edge information and networking opportunities, organizing peer-to-peer exchanges to share success factors and problem-solving strategies, and facilitating collaborative action among immunization managers worldwide.

In September this year, IAIM held its Inaugural Regional Meeting for members from the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa in Durban, South Africa. For the first time, immunization managers from different regions came together to discuss management of their immunization programs. Members also shared best practices and lessons learned, providing an opportunity for managers to benefit from one another’s experiences.

Anne-Marie Gouws, the immunization manager from Mpumalanga Province in South Africa said that participation in this Regional Meeting helped her gain new perspective of other managers’ experiences, and that IAIM offered her an opportunity to play a role in progressive thinking about the future of immunization.

The regional meeting was also valuable for other immunization professionals, such as Juliette Kapinga Kiabilua, a pediatrician from Botswana. Dr. Kiabilua previously did not know who to contact when she had questions about the immunizations she delivers in her clinic, but at this meeting she found the right person – Dr. Ndibo Joyce Monyatsi, the national immunization program manager in Botswana. They exchanged contact information, and now if Dr. Kiabilua ever experiences issues with immunization in her clinic, she can call on Dr. Monyatsi for advice.

Back at the IAIM Secretariat, we’re already hard at work planning our first international conference, which will bring professionals from across the world to Istanbul, Turkey in March 2015. This will be an unprecedented opportunity for vaccine managers to exchange best practices and problem-solving techniques, receive the guidance they need from immunization experts, and invest in personal career development- all of which will help them to advance their countries’ immunization efforts.

To join IAIM, visit us here.