AThis Monday, the Ministry of Health announced the list of newly appointed members of the Permanent Vaccination Committee (STIKO): Only five of the 17 members are represented in the committee, which regularly publishes vaccination recommendations. FAZ had already announced in November the plans of Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to almost completely replace STIKO members.

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

Limiting the number of intended appeals

In addition to experts in immunology, microbiology, pediatrics, gynecology, general and occupational medicine, STIKO will also expand its expertise in modeling and communication. The committee includes communication scientist Constanze Rossmann from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and epidemiologist Berit Lange from the Helmholtz Center for Infectious Disease Research. Lange is head of the German Epidemiology Society and spokesperson for the Serious Infectious Disease Modeling Network.

Thomas Mertens in November 2021: He was previously chairman of STIKO and announced some time ago that he wanted to leave the committee.

Thomas Mertens in November 2021: He was previously chairman of STIKO and announced some time ago that he wanted to leave the committee.

Image: dpa

Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the appointment periods of vaccination commissions in other countries, the appointment period of STIKO members will be limited to a maximum of three three-year appointment periods, explains the Federal Ministry. Health. “It also helps to ensure independence.” The spokesperson was initially unable to say how it would be regulated. STIKO can itself decide on changing its rules of procedure, which requires the approval of the ministry. The rules of procedure currently stipulate that STIKO has twelve to 18 members.

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

The new appointment period for STIKO members should actually have started in March 2023. Its current chairman Thomas Mertens and his deputy Sabine Wicker are leaving. The newly appointed STIKO will gather for its founding meeting on March 12 and 13, 2024 and elect its own chairman.

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