Australian Expert Technical Assistance Program for Regional COVID-19 Vaccine Access: Policy, Planning and Implementation (AETAP-PPI)

NCIRS is working closely with the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on a newly established program - Australian Expert Technical Assistance Program for Regional COVID-19 Vaccine Access: Policy, Planning and Implementation (AETAP-PPI) as part of the Centre’s Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative (VAHSI). 

This partnership allows countries in South East Asia and the Indo-Pacific to access technical advice from Australian immunisation experts to support planning, implementation and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccination rollout programs. 
Countries can request different levels and types of technical assistance, depending on their need. Requests may be of any nature - from simple queries to longer term commitments like training packages or technical twinning arrangements.

Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA)

NCIRS also hosts the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA), a consortium of experts in immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases that includes several Australian universities and research institutes with experience in communicable disease in the Indo-Pacific. NCIRS operates the secretariat for ARIA. 

ARIA membership includes representation from these academic institutions across Australia, including the University of Sydney, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne, the Burnet Institute, the Menzies School of Health Research of Curtin University, the Australian National University, Telethon Kids Institute and the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales.

NCIRS and ARIA members work with a range of partners in the Indo-Pacific to strengthen immunisation programs, providing independent expert advice on all aspects of vaccine preventable diseases, and other issues related to immunisation, to inform policy and planning for immunisation services. 

Working in partnership with government and regional bodies, ARIA members can provide direct (in country) or remote support, advice and training related to:

  • vaccine safety pharmacovigilance (monitoring/adverse event reporting systems)
  • vaccine program planning support immunisation service delivery and coordination 
  • surveillance and epidemiology 
  • social and behavioural insights.

Examples of support provided in the region

Pharmacovigilance (vaccine safety and adverse event reporting systems) Immunisation service delivery and coordination 

Remote training session provided for Timor-Leste clinicians by Australian experts, including haematologists, and experts on thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). 

This training covered:

  • a general overview of vaccine pharmacovigilance
  • epidemiology of TTS and AstraZeneca vaccine
  • clinical diagnosis, investigation and management
  • discussion of the draft protocol for managing suspected TTS patients in Timor-Leste.
  • Revised ‘Immunization Safety Surveillance Guidelines’ for the Ministry of Health, Vanuatu.
  • Developed an advisory document for the Ministry of Health, Vanuatu, on potential risk factors for the rare blood-clotting adverse event (TTS) after the AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • Reviewed national adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) guidelines for the Ministry of Health in the Solomon Islands.
  • Reviewed draft national Immunisation Strategy 2021-25 for Papua New Guinea
  • NCIRS deployed a public health physician at the Ministry of Health, Timor-Leste, to provide in-country technical support. Technical advice is provided to support policy decision-making and key immunisation-related bodies, including the National Technical Working and Advisory Groups and National Coordination Committee. The advisor also helps with planning and implementing the national plans for vaccination against COVID-19. 
Surveillance and epidemiologySocial and behavioural insights 
  • Developed a ‘Just in Time Training’ module on AEFI surveillance for the WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support. This four-hour customised training module can be delivered in person or remotely via video conference technology.
  • A short training module on causality assessment for health workers is currently being developed.
  • Assisted to develop the National COVID-19 Communication Strategy for the Solomon Islands
  • Reviewed PNG COVID-19 vaccine communication engagement strategy 
Cold chain and vaccine program planning 
  • Support currently in progress

Who to contact?

Partner governments and regional bodies (such as WHO, UNICEF) can request technical assistance either through  DFAT Post, directly through NCIRS (where there is already an established relationship) or through the Centre for Health Security, DFAT. For more information, please contact the Global Health team at NCIRS. 

Last updated May 2024