Standing vaccination committee: high standards, growing criticism

Status: 03.12.2021 7:17 p.m.

The STIKO has still not given a recommendation to vaccinate children under the age of twelve. The decision to have booster vaccinations also came late. Self-claims and criticism from outside put pressure on the committee.

By Andreas Reuter, ARD capital studio

Thomas Mertens, the head of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), was interviewed for 15 minutes. It was about vaccinations for small children, whether and when the STIKO would recommend them, and what should be considered. At the very end, the personal question to the STIKO boss in the podcast of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (“FAZ”): “If you had a seven- or eight-year-old child, would you have it vaccinated?” Mertens’ answer: “Well, I probably wouldn’t have it vaccinated now.”

Criticism of the STIKO boss’s statement

The criticism of the STIKO boss’s answer came from the north and south, and from left and right. Manuela Schwesig, Prime Minister in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, complained that the recommendation for booster vaccinations had come too late. She hoped that Mertens would draw conclusions from this for future recommendations, said the SPD politician to “Spiegel”.

Schwesig got support from Bavaria. “We find the statements of the STIKO boss a bit strange,” said Prime Minister Markus Söder. “It is a personal decision, of course, how it goes with his children,” said the CSU politician. “But of course that leads to a deep question of bias when the STIKO boss – before an official STIKO recommendation comes – virtually announces it himself in a podcast.” This would hugely weaken the STIKO’s credibility.

“We would like to be faster often”

But Mertens does not want to be pushed. Decisions take time, he says. And a sound scientific basis. And also: “The changing moods in the public and also among the politicians cannot be the measure for a STIKO decision,” said Mertens in the “FAZ” podcast.

Because the STIKO decides independently. In a round of twelve to 18 experts, all of whom do this on a voluntary basis, and supported by an office at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). After almost two years of the corona pandemic, there is also a certain exhaustion, said STIKO member Martin Terhardt in Deutschlandfunk: “At STIKO we are really busy with all Covid vaccination tasks and on the verge of what the resources can do. We would often like to be faster. But that is because we do not have enough resources at the Robert Koch office -Institute. It is completely overwhelmed in terms of personnel in the current situation and everyone is working to their physical limit. “

Overload of the STIKO in times of pandemic

Mertens also complained that the STIKO was overloaded. But Jens Spahn, the still incumbent health minister, has so far been clueless. “Well, Professor Mertens has not yet stated any personnel requirements to me,” said Spahn last week. “If so, I’ll call him right afterwards and talk to him about it.”

True, he did not speak to the minister personally about it, admitted Mertens in the “FAZ” podcast. “But for several years I have been expressing this issue to the President of the RKI, Wieler – even in writing. I also know that Mr. Wieler passed this request on to the Federal Ministry of Health,” said Mertens. And yet the STIKO was not reinforced by more staff during the entire pandemic.

Perhaps that is one of the construction sites that Spahn is leaving behind for his successor. And this realization, as Spahn recently said: “I simply believe that the very important instrument of the Standing Vaccination Commission is not one for pandemic times.”

Stiko under pressure

Andreas Reuter, ARD Berlin, December 3, 2021 5:41 pm

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