IIn the dispute about the sense of child vaccinations against the coronavirus, the pressure from politicians on the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute has recently increased. Due to a lack of data on possible vaccination risks, the latter refuses to generally recommend vaccination for children. After Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) recently accused the commission of a lack of competence, the STIKO is now defending itself.
“The current statements by Mr Söder and other politicians about the STIKO and their work are unusual, also taking into account the election campaign time, and must be corrected,” demanded the commission on Friday in a statement that the FAZ received.
Söder, who urges children to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, had emphasized on Bayerischer Rundfunk that the STIKO is an organization whose members work on a voluntary basis. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has approved the corona vaccine for children from the age of twelve, “these are the professionals,” said Söder. His statement was widely understood as a doubt about the professionalism of the staffed STIKO. Söder criticized the reluctance of the commission to make people feel insecure.
The Commission protests against this. “The STIKO is an independent committee of experts whose activities are significantly supported by the employees in the vaccination prevention department of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI),” said the statement on Friday. “In accordance with its statutory mandate, it works transparently according to strictly scientific criteria and is by no means less ‘professional’ than the EMA.”
Individual STIKO members became even clearer on Friday. “Markus Söder has overdone with these statements,” said Rüdiger von Kries of the FAZ. “The behavior and these statements are unacceptable.” It “goes too far” to discredit a scientific advisory committee because you don’t like their opinion. “This approach reminds me of the behavior of politicians from countries whose policies we in democratic Germany do not approve of.” Söder’s escalation is “wrong, unnecessary and does not help anyone”. Von Kries demanded from Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) that he stand behind the commission.
The Mainz pediatrician Fred Zepp, who has been a member of the STIKO for many years, reprimanded the FAZ that politicians like Markus Söder demand from the scientists to change their recommendation for no reason. “Even under the conditions of the election campaign, this is an unusual influence from someone who is not medically competent,” said Zepp. “We consider it a quality feature that the members of the STIKO do their job on a voluntary basis and thus do not become dependent on any interests.”
18 doctoral degrees and 13 professor titles
The members of the STIKO are selected by the Federal Ministry of Health and the highest health authorities of the federal states. The qualification of the scientist is decisive; the commission currently consists of 18 members who combine 18 doctoral degrees and 13 professorial titles. Zepp emphasized that a recommendation from the Commission should not be confused with approval. Just because a vaccine is approved does not mean that it is advisable to vaccinate it in large numbers. The STIKO had spoken out against general children’s vaccinations for Corona, because children very rarely get seriously ill with Covid-19. In return, experts believe that too little is known about the possible risks of vaccination.
The STIKO also protested against politicians interpreting their vaccination recommendations, which have been changed several times, as arbitrariness. “The changes in the STIKO’s COVID-19 vaccination recommendation that have taken place over time are not a back and forth, but an expression of the careful analysis of constantly changing and newly emerging scientific findings, which are published in quick succession in view of the dynamism of research on COVID-19 “, It says in the paper.
Zepp demands that approval and vaccination recommendations should not be mixed up. “In the long term, this damages trust in professional organizations.”