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Standing Vaccination Commission: New Stiko – other recommendations?

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Standing Vaccination Commission: New Stiko – other recommendations?

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Page 1 — New Stiko – other recommendations?

Page 2 — The Siko in the Stiko

It could be reminiscent of a parents’ evening, which will happen in mid-March. 19 women and men will then sit together more or less motivated. They must elect someone to represent them. At that moment, one or the other will probably concentrate intensively on their smartphone or look intently at the floor, because: The job that is up for grabs cannot be particularly popular. The experiences of the corona pandemic have made it clear how strenuous it can be to be chairman of the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), and how much work and stress can be associated with the task.

Because this job will soon be about. When the 19 newly appointed members of Stiko meet for the first time – among other things, to elect a chairman from among them. The Federal Ministry of Health announced on Monday who these 19 women and men are. Only five of them were already members of Stiko, the other 14 are all new. So a lot could change with this new constellation. Why does all of this matter?

Because the Stiko, with its vaccination recommendations, has an extremely large influence on the prevention of diseases in Germany. Many doctors trust and follow it, especially in pediatrics. The Stiko recommendations often concern vaccinations for infants and children. Most pediatricians follow their vaccination calendar and immunize their little patients against measles, mumps and tetanus during regular check-ups. But the Stiko also plays an important role for adults. For example, it recommends which groups of people should get vaccinated against the flu or who should really get an immunization against TBE, a serious brain disease that is transmitted by ticks. And if the Stiko recommends something, the health insurance companies usually also pay for these vaccinations.

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A communication scientist among virologists

If the Stiko now sets different priorities in its new constellation than the previous committee, then this will affect many people in Germany. For example, it’s about whether the flu vaccination – unlike before – is also recommended for children. Or whether the Stiko should recommend immunizations in the future that protect infants from RSV infection – a disease that can be very dangerous for small children and because of which many infants are currently in intensive care units.

All of these projects are now up for discussion. ZEIT ONLINE spoke to several of the current members about whether and how they want to address these issues. Of course, efforts will be made to maintain continuity, says Klaus Überla. “But you can’t anticipate the new Stiko in any way.” Überla is director of the Virological Institute at Erlangen University Hospital and a member of Stiko since 2017. He has now been reappointed. Überla therefore belongs to a minority; he is one of the five members of the new Stiko who were already there before.

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He seems very calm in conversation. He doesn’t know the new members personally yet, but you still get the feeling that he’s looking forward to what new things might be brought to the Stiko. For example, Constanze Rossmann from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich is the first communication scientist to be there. Überla thinks that’s a good thing, because it’s also important how best to communicate decisions made by the Stiko regarding vaccination recommendations, he says, “and the expertise of a communication scientist can of course help us substantially.”

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Will the flu vaccination also be recommended for children in the future?

What is also new is that Stiko now has fewer experts in pediatric medicine, namely only two instead of the previous four. One can only speculate what impact this has on decisions. So far it has at least been the case that the Stiko has acted rather cautiously. These are pediatricians in general. Because children are not small adults and side effects of medications or vaccinations can have other and longer-term effects on them, including negative ones, pediatricians are more likely to trust procedures and remedies that have been tried and tested for a long time. That’s why they always view new vaccinations with particular caution.

The old Stiko with its four experts in pediatric medicine only made very limited vaccination recommendations for children and young people during the corona pandemic and took a long time to do so. This brought her a lot of criticism, especially from politicians, but was mainly because she wanted to wait for study data and experiences from other countries before recommending a vaccination to children and young people that would only bring them comparatively little benefit.

Two such decisions are coming up soon: Should there be a recommendation to vaccinate children against the flu? The committee will also decide on various ways to protect children from RSV infections through immunization. At least with the flu vaccination, one would have assumed in the old constellation that the Stiko would not recommend a recommendation for children – the benefit for the children themselves is too uncertain. However, adults could benefit from it if the children are vaccinated and the flu virus is not spread more. It remains to be seen whether the Stiko’s new composition might give it a different weight, more in the interests of adults.

It could be reminiscent of a parents’ evening, which will happen in mid-March. 19 women and men will then sit together more or less motivated. They must elect someone to represent them. At that moment, one or the other will probably concentrate intensively on their smartphone or look intently at the floor, because: The job that is up for grabs cannot be particularly popular. The experiences of the corona pandemic have made it clear how strenuous it can be to be chairman of the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), and how much work and stress can be associated with the task.

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