Students’ experience

Benjamin Watyaba

The passion for Vaccinology started following a short vaccine course I attended in June 2018 organized by East Africa Center for Vaccines and Immunization (ECAVI). I later responded to the call for training opportunities to promising East African Scientist interested in vaccinology.

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The collaboration was between Eastern Africa Consortium for Clinical Research (EACCR) with the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).

The journey started in January 2020 with a prerequisite revision of virology, bacteriology and immunology which I enjoyed so much followed by convention in Lausanne.

The course overview meeting was helpful, and I had the opportunity of meeting the lecturers and fellow students from various parts of the world and with different background.

The two years of the course enabled equipped me with knowledge in vaccine development, logistics and operations, public health issues related to vaccines, article review, etc.

The emergence of Covid 19 pandemic made the course even more relevant as we kept discussing the progress of the pandemic in tandem with vaccine development. This helped me to organize and conduct several continuous medical educations (CMEs) for health professionals about Covid 19 vaccines thereby increasing awareness and thus promoting vaccine uptake.

The knowledge and skills acquired from this course has helped me participate in the design and conduct of medical research and we are now in the final stages of starting a phase II vaccine clinical trial.

I highly recommend this course for those interested in Vaccinology.

Violet Nakibuuka

I am a former student at University of Lausanne Switzerland and joined the international masters of Vaccinology (IMVACC) in 2020.

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I had a chance to have a physical orientation in Lausanne at the University Hospital (CHUV) which was a great opportunity to meet the other class 2020 students.

The teaching was unique as it was tailored with annotated articles and on line lectures. The annotated articles helped improve on my reading capacity and interpretation of research done by other people. The notes to each topic were detailed and had references if a student had interest in reading extra about the topic.

The learning is self-directed as the student could make their own pace at which they had to read provided they covered all the required exercises before the end of the module. We made a discussion group as a team from Uganda and could discuss the work each of us didn’t understand. 

The students from other countries were helpful as well as we could consult each other and guide each other on how to go about the different topics.

I thank the tutors for supporting me through the course, my supervisor Dr Muddu and my funders EDCTP.

One Bridget Dintwe

When I started the IMVACC course in January of 2020, never had I imagined that I would live the course contents in the next 2 years due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

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That January we met our fellow students and course convenors in Lausanne, and discussed some of the theory of the work. The course convenors were very supportive, and ensure we were all equipped with what we needed to be able to complete this course. They were always available to answer our questions and kept in constant communication. That year, information about SARS-COV-2 was included in the course and we were able to discuss the plethora of findings that were coming out nearly daily. Many of the information we learnt in the course was directly applicable in my job as my organization became involved in COVID vaccine clinical trials. The course content made my interactions with vaccine developers and sponsors alike, all that more enriched and meaningful.

Above all else, this course filled in many gaps in understanding vaccine development, logistics and operations and some of the public health challenges that I do not get to see in my current job, thus completing the life cycle of a vaccine. It has been such an enriching experience doing this course and I would recommend this course to those interested in Vaccinology and Immunology.

Mihaela BUZDUGA

Experience MAS IMVACC 2018, MD Mihaela Buzduga, FMH Pediatrician

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I decided to take part in the 2018 IMVACC course offered by the Université de Lausanne aLer finishing my postgrad in pediatrics and as I was preparing to

continue my career as a private pracPPoner in Lausanne.

The first year was a new learning experience for me: provided through an on online plaUorm that permiVed me to have 24h acces to the study material and thus allowing me to organize according to my professional and personal constraints. I parPcularly appreciated the interacPve aspect of the course: a private and a team chat with the tutors and colleagues facilitated the exchanges and allowed us to ask quesPons and to keep up with each others progress. The learning objecPves and requirements were clearly stated; the deadlines for the

on-line exams allowed me to keep up the pace and to remain engaged in my study. Every topic of the modules was interesPng, with a logical layout of the theorePcal and pracPcal aspects.

I chose for my master’s thesis a theme that I personally consider of extreme interest in Vaccinology: Vaccine hesitancy. Though a quesPonnaire addressed to private pracPce pediatricians in French speaking cantons in Switzerland I studied the a]tude and strategies of these professionals when confronted with vaccine hesitancy.

The two years of IMVACC allowed me to deepen my understanding in the field, sharpen my criPcal scienPfic reading and provided me addiPonal tools in my private pracPce.

The IMVACC was a great learning opportunity for me and I encourage future students to take advantage of the tutors experPse and availability that I enormously appreciated.

Rodrigo Romero FEREGRINO

My experience studying the IMVACC master program was excellent, I met very interesting and intelligent people from whom I learned a lot. The tutors and experts are always willing to support with patience, experience and knowledge. Interaction with the classmates generates interesting discussions and good team work.

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With IMVACC, I learned from the basic sciences of vaccinology and microbiology to the development of projects, including the different steps for the development of vaccines and the public vaccination policies around the world. I also developed and discussed the current problems of vaccinology such as excessive costs, insufficient production and anti-vaccine groups. IMVACC is a demanding program that encourages self-learning, project development and teamwork, with an excellent group of tutors and colleagues always willing to work, support as necessary and be a friend.

The IMVACC has helped me to develop in different areas, improved my knowledge of vaccinology. It helped me for my professional and academic career. In addition, with my thesis project I not only received the diploma from the University of Lausanne but I was also able to generate a public proposal for my country. It also helped to have more international contacts and friends.

I recommend that anyone interested in vaccinology take this master’s degree, which helps to master vaccinology, as it happened to me.

Luc Christian GWOM

The IMVACC program was well organized and all the professors involved were very helpful. I have learnt so many new skills during the program that enabled me to work on a broad range of issues related to vaccines.

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For instance, I have acquired knowledge on how to design and manufacture vaccines, how to evaluate their clinical performance and what is needed in order to license these important products for the prevention of infectious diseases. I also had an opportunity to learn about projects/programs management so that I can now lead projects aiming at introducing new vaccines in countries and even manage “Expanded programs on Immunization for countries”. In addition, we were taught the management of communication surrounding vaccines as to efficiently address issues potentially coming from vaccine resistant groups.

The set of skills and knowledge acquired from the IMVACC program has strongly impacted my professional life as the quality of the work I now deliver is both appreciated and highly demanded. I have already used these skills to provide technical support to several countries in Africa through my work with NGOs and WHO. Practically speaking, the exercises that we were asked to complete in the IMVACC modules are almost the same objectives I am generally tasked with in my work. So, I am always confident and comfortable to design/generate tools or workplans that are needed for the management of the projects/activities we should implement.

I was blessed to be part of the first batch of IMVACC students and the second fellow to complete the program. I have been very lucky to have had the best Thesis Director, Prof. Dr. Ivana KNEZEVIC who strongly guided and supported me throughout my Master thesis.

Overall, I would encourage any person willing to study Vaccinology to apply and to devote time to this unique program.

Nicolas PEYRAUD

The IMVACC course offered me the perfect opportunity to master my knowledge in vaccinology in order to apply them later into my humanitarian medical practice.

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I have enjoyed learning about vaccines-related immunology and microbiology, vaccines research, manufacturing process and policies related to vaccinology. This course offered me a new perspective, totally different from what a pediatrician learnt during the 5 years training. The distance learning’s methodology offers the opportunity to interact with vaccines expert through exercises but also through direct discussion as needed. The face to face meetings in Lausanne also allowed to know each other and collaborated better among us. Teachers were extremely available and the small group of students following the master each year gives the unique opportunity to interact with all of them. I do not remember how many times I had the opportunity to grab my phone, text a message and directly have a “what’s app” call with a teacher to speak about a specific topic from the course. This is what makes the difference with several master courses followed by hundreds of students. I also usually got answers by teachers through email to my questions within the day or the following day. Without following this course, even with greatest motivation, I would only have been able to learn and understand 1/10 of the course by reading articles and textbook related to vaccines. Time management is a key and it is very important to stay organized to follow the course and the structured approach help to be confident and to keeps ourselves within the requested time-frame. The methods student use following the IMVACC course is similar to the one a professional should use while exploring a scientific topic through a great autonomy, collaboration with pairs and literature research. The teachers also encourage students to actively bring new initiative for improving the course and feed its content. It’s a real interactive process.

During the IMVACC course, I have been exposed to all vaccine-related fields from low to high-income countries. The structured guidance offers logical path towards the whole process of vaccines, from research until commercialization, giving a general understanding of the process and the several constrains in the vaccine’s world. Also, the access to the IMVACC online library at any time for medical literature searches was a key and there are always extra-reading references available inside the course which allowed to get our own critical point of view. I remember to have sometimes read dozen extra article to go deeper in a topic as the course brings me interest to go further into the readings. The course also provides annotated articles to help gaining deep systematic analysis and critical understanding of an article.

With extensive links that IMVACC has, I had the opportunity to work during my last 6 months of master course within the “Initiative for vaccine research (IVR)“at the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. It offered me a great experience and allowed me to understand and explore deeply one specific vaccine-related topic (micro-array patches for Measles vaccines) and publish as first author in “Vaccines”’ Journal.

The acquired knowledge during this master course allows me to know vaccines-related topic or where to search more. It helps me to better collaborate with other healthcare professionals by understanding their specific points of view and priorities. I can feel now confident when I must explore deeply a new topic, where to search and how to think to make the best of it.

Vojislav CVJETKOVIC

After spending three years working with swine in a vaccine-oriented multinational company, I decided to take part in the 2019 IMVACC course offered by the Université de Lausanne.

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First year was filled with four consecutive modules, starting with basic information about (vaccine) immunology and general vaccines sciences. We were then instructed about vaccine development (II), public health (II) and ultimately project management (III), naturally always linked to vaccines.

In order to complete the course, you also have to write a master thesis, which should be finished inside the time frame defined by the Committee. My interest in adjuvants inspired me to write a review about adjuvants in inactivated registered vaccines for chicken, salmon, and swine. Even if it took me almost 21 months, the knowledge gained in this sector was enormous and allowed me to further compare the differences between the three species when it comes to innate immunity, adapted immunity and adverse reactions.

In summary, the course has helped me to grasp mechanisms in vaccinology I wasn´t aware of, and to establish a network of experts in this field. Claude Méric, Jean-Pierre Kraehenbuhl and last, but certainly not least my master thesis director Dirk Werling have thought me numerous things in a humble and patient manner.

To successfully pass the course, I recommend future students to work regularly, have a precise studying plan and of course, to never give up! If I am allowed me to criticize one aspect, it´s that no aspects of veterinary vaccinology were considered. Consequently, I intend to assist the tutors in elaborating this topic for future classes.