The success of immunization programs relies heavily on immunization program managers, who facilitate every aspect of immunization programs, from cost-effective procurement of vaccines to the vigilant monitoring of vaccine safety and efficacy. Sabin’s IAIM Network is the largest international network of immunization managers, offering opportunities to connect, share knowledge and strengthen skills required to effectively implement immunization programs. This peer network creates opportunities for immunization professionals to share best practices and address the most pressing topics challenging immunization programs.

In this spotlight series, we will feature IAIM Network members to highlight their accomplishments as immunization managers and learn from their programs. This interview is with Yusra Khalaf, Deputy EPI Manager and National AFP Surveillance Officer, Iraq Ministry of Health. This interview was edited for clarity and length. 

How long have you been an immunization manager?

I have been the Deputy EPI Manager and national AFP surveillance officer since 2005. From 1997-1998, I was the EPI manager in Baghdad and from 1998-2004, I was a communicable disease surveillance officer.

Why did you want to become an immunization manager?

Immunization is an investment for the future leading to strong herd immunity. Working in prevention is important to the community as a whole in order to decrease the burden of communicable disease outbreaks which often reflect the economic status of the country.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most important reward is that Iraq is now polio- and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV)- free despite the outbreak of cVDPV2 in nearby Syria. We have also succeeded in the introduction of new vaccines in the national schedule including Rotavirus, Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV).

What do you wish people knew about immunization managers?

I wish that everyone realized that each EPI manager is a hero. They work for everyone regardless of age, religion or nationality and in dangerous situations and high-risk areas.

How can the IAIM Network help you as an immunization manager?

The IAIM Network can give us opportunities to see achievements of other countries, including increasing coverage and raising awareness about the importance of immunization for both health workers and families.

If you or an immunization professional you know has done work you would like to share with the broader IAIM Network community, please nominate them for a future spotlight by emailing us at [email protected].