This Monday, the Ministry of Health announced the list of newly appointed members of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO): Of the 17 members so far, only five remain represented on the committee, which regularly publishes recommendations for vaccinations. The FAZ had already reported in November about the plans of Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to almost completely replace the STIKO members.

Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup

Editor in the “Science” department.

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    “STIKO has achieved great achievements during the pandemic,” explains Lauterbach. “Now it will be younger and even more interdisciplinary with many new members from very different specialist areas. Top scientific and practical experts are also building up the new team.” As before, the federal government’s vaccination campaigns would be based on the STIKO recommendations. “STIKO’s independence from political influence has proven itself and will continue to exist,” says the minister.

    Limitation of the number of appeals planned

    In addition to experts from immunology, microbiology, pediatrics, gynecology, general and occupational medicine, STIKO will be expanded in the future to include expertise in modeling and communication. The communication scientist Constanze Rossmann from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the epidemiologist Berit Lange from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research will be members of the committee. Lange is head of the German Society for Epidemiology and spokesperson for the modeling network for serious infectious diseases.

    Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and appointment periods of vaccination commissions in other countries, the appointment period of STIKO members will in future be limited to a maximum of three appointment periods of three years each, explains the Federal Ministry of Health. “This also contributes to ensuring independence.” A spokesman was initially unable to say how this would be regulated. The STIKO itself can decide on changes to its rules of procedure, which requires the approval of the ministry. The rules of procedure currently stipulate that the STIKO consists of twelve to 18 members.

    Epidemiologist Joerg Meerpohl from the Cochrane Center in Freiburg, who will continue to be a member of the commission, welcomes the fact that the Ministry of Health continues to emphasize the STIKO's independence from political influence as an important element. He is pleased that there is now clarity about the STIKO members in the new appointment period. From his point of view, it is important that the scientifically careful approach according to the criteria of evidence-based medicine “remains a flagship of STIKO”.

    The new appointment period for STIKO members should actually have started in March 2023. Its current chairman Thomas Mertens and his deputy Sabine Wicker will be leaving. The newly appointed STIKO is scheduled to meet for its constituent meeting on March 12 and 13, 2024, and will elect the chair itself.

    The replacement of two-thirds of the panel meant a significant loss of experience, pediatrician Fred Zepp had previously explained. He has been a member of STIKO since 1998 and is now leaving. “The new STIKO will probably need a certain amount of time to familiarize itself with the issues at hand and to prepare reliable recommendations,” said Zepp. “The BMG is certainly aware of that.”