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Stiko conversion: political maneuver or completely normal process?

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Stiko conversion: political maneuver or completely normal process?

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Page 1 — Political maneuver or a completely normal process?

Page 2 – A pack of coffee and a ballpoint pen as thanks. Page 3 – The Stiko should remain independent

Night meetings, weekend work and all of this on a voluntary basis: the pandemic was also an exceptional situation for the Standing Vaccination Commission, which develops the vaccination recommendations for Germany. For a good two years, the scientists and doctors repeatedly looked at studies and discussed vaccination data. They revised the recommendation for the corona vaccines several times. And new work has been waiting for a long time: by the summer, Stiko wants to make a recommendation for the new vaccine and the prophylactic antibody against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has caused emergencies in German children’s hospitals over the past two years.

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But it has been clear for a few days now: Most of this work will soon have to be done by others. Because the Stiko is being radically rebuilt. Twelve of the current 17 members will be leaving the committee in the spring. At the most recent Stiko meeting at the beginning of November, the responsible department head in the Federal Ministry of Health said goodbye to the members, including virologist emeritus Thomas Mertens, who has headed the committee since 2017.

Since the news of Stiko’s restructuring was out in the world, there has been speculation about the reasons. For example, whether it matters that Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) repeatedly struggled with the commission’s recommendations during the pandemic, that they did not come quickly enough and in some cases did not go far enough. In the Welt There were even voices that suspected that Lauterbach wanted to restrict the independence of the Stiko. The medical statistician Gerd Antes, who used to be a member of the Stiko himself, speculates there that the Stiko will become an “instrument of confirmation and applause for announcements by the Minister of Health”. So is the restructuring a political maneuver – or is it a completely normal process that will, in the best case, strengthen the Stiko?

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The upheaval comes too suddenly, many say

First they had Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on the reason for the departure of Thomas Mertens and eleven other Stiko members. The Ministry of Health (BMG) wants loudly HE DOES limit the term of office of members. This is confirmed by Karl Lauterbach’s spokesman in the BMG, Hanno Kautz. In the future, Stiko members will only be allowed to be appointed for three terms of office and therefore a total of nine years. Twelve of the 17 Stiko members have been there for a long time, some for decades, such as the pediatrician Fred Zepp. Mertens announced early on that he would not run for chairman again. But other long-serving members such as the deputy chairwoman, the occupational physician Sabine Wicker, and the microbiologist Christian Bogdan also have to go.

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“The Stiko should have been reappointed in the spring anyway,” says Lauterbach’s spokesman. This is a completely normal process. By limiting membership to three terms of office, we are following the international model, such as that of the USA or Canada. Hajo Zeeb, professor at the Leibniz Center for Prevention Research and Epidemiology, also thinks it is not unusual to limit the term of office. He himself is a member of various commissions, such as the Radiation Protection Commission, and is not aware of anything like permanent membership. “On the contrary,” says Zeeb: “Rotation is often good for things; I actually always find a mix of old and new members to be very beneficial.”

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Even in the Stiko there is probably no fundamental doubt, as a long-time member tells ZEIT ONLINE: “The matter per se is trivial and unexciting. Actually no one in the Stiko has anything against it.”

Then why the uproar? One problem is that the upheaval comes too suddenly, says another member, the pediatrician Martin Terhardt, who has been with the Stiko for almost 13 years and also has to leave in the spring: Those who have to leave now have the Over the years, we have not only internalized Stiko’s methodology, but also brought in special expertise. Four pediatricians, including Terhardt, are leaving Stiko.

“A lot of knowledge is lost all at once, there is friction and the new members have to find their way around,” says Terhardt. In his opinion, it would be better if not so many had to be eliminated at once, but perhaps only six. There will be various new recommendations next year, which the current Stiko has already started working on. In addition to the evaluation of the RSV antibody Nirsevimab and the RSV vaccination for pregnant women, it is also about vaccinations against meningococci and influenza. Terhardt fears that the sudden restructuring will lead to delays in Stiko’s work.

Night meetings, weekend work and all of this on a voluntary basis: the pandemic was also an exceptional situation for the Standing Vaccination Commission, which develops the vaccination recommendations for Germany. For a good two years, the scientists and doctors repeatedly looked at studies and discussed vaccination data. They revised the recommendation for the corona vaccines several times. And new work has been waiting for a long time: by the summer, Stiko wants to make a recommendation for the new vaccine and the prophylactic antibody against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has caused emergencies in German children’s hospitals over the past two years.

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