By Mariama Marong
The Government of the Gambia has on Friday, 20th December 2020 launched Gambia Immunisation Advisory Group (NITAG) responsible for advising the Government on vaccines.
Dr Mustapha Bittaye, the Director of Health Services described NITAG is an important advisory group saying they are the experts and will be giving the Government technical advice before introducing vaccines. Director Bittaye explained that before any vaccine is introduced in the country, there is need to get all the data about the vaccine – how safe it is – how effective it is – the efficiency and all the necessary information regarding the vaccine.
“So you need the best people in the country to sit together and look at the evidence together and then advise the Government. That is the role of this group,” Bittaye said.
He said the group has eminent and experienced medical practitioners. Bittaye said the group is responsible for looking into vaccines and advising the Government on what to do.
“They will give us advice and we will utilize that to safe our people,” Bittaye said.
On whether the group was formed to look into the Coronavirus vaccine, Bittaye said the group was established before the coming of the Coronavirus into the country. He said the group would have been launched some months ago if it were not for the outbreak of the deadly virus, Coronavirus.
“They have been working before. This is just to formalise it. It is long overdue – we have been working on this well before the coming of the pandemic,” Bittaye said.
The Gambia is said to be one of the countries in West Africa with the best immunisation system.
The group is head by Professor Ousman Nyang as the Chairperson, Doctors Adama Sallah, Kebba Gibba, Lamin Makalo, a representative from UNICEF, one from the MRC and some other doctors. Jainaba Nyang Njie is their communication expert.
Muhammed Lamin Jaiteh, the Permanent Secretary 1 at the Ministry of Health said the Gambia Government did increase the budget allocation for vaccines from 20 million in the previous years to 32 million in 2020.
“Our country is recognised as one of the countries with the best immunisation programme in the sub-region,” Jaiteh said.
He said the country’s immunisation policy provides free immunisation for the people.