The Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) has largely been replaced. The committee responsible for vaccination recommendations for the German population is gaining numerous new members, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) announced on Monday. During the pandemic, the Stiko achieved “great achievements”, “now it is staffed with many new members from very different specialist areas, younger and even more interdisciplinary”. In addition to the disciplines already represented such as virology, immunology and pediatrics, additional specialists from the areas of communication and modeling are represented.
According to the Health Minister’s plans, of the previous 17 members of Stiko, only five will continue to be represented on the voluntary committee, and 14 members will be appointed. Among the outgoing members is the previous chairman, the virologist Thomas Mertens from Ulm. However, the 73-year-old had already announced in September 2022 that he would no longer be available for another term.
The conversion plans had already become known last November, the SZ reported at the time. The ministry emphasized that this was a regular appointment. The renovation has nothing to do with the fact that there was criticism of the Stiko’s work during the pandemic. Health Minister Lauterbach had complained that the commission was too hesitant when it came to some vaccination recommendations. It is still unclear who will be the new chairman. The committee will make this decision itself at its constituent meeting, which will take place on March 12th and 13th.
In addition to the personal details, the minister wants there to be another significant change: in the future, the appointment period should be limited to a maximum of three periods of three years each. This is intended, among other things, to ensure the independence of Stiko, the ministry said. This change also meant that twelve of the previous 17 members could not be reappointed.
The new members include, among others, the pediatrician Reinhard Berner from the University Hospital Dresden, the vaccination epidemiologist Stefan Bottle from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the gerontologist Anja Kwetkat from the Osnabrück Clinic and the epidemiologist Berit Lange from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig as well Constanze Rossmann from the Institute for Communication Studies at the University of Munich.
The outgoing chairman Thomas Mertens said in an interview with the SZ in November that he considered limiting the term of office to a maximum of nine years to be fundamentally correct: “Many international vaccination commissions do it that way, I think it’s okay.” Other former Stiko members, however, expressed criticism of the ministry’s plans. The Berlin pediatrician Martin Terhardt, who will no longer be part of the committee, said that the previous stability in the composition had contributed to the Stiko functioning and working together so well during the pandemic. The departure of so many members means a significant loss of experience.