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German regulators revise their Covid vaccine recommendations for the 25th time, announce that we can stop jabbing children now
STIKO (the Ständige Impfkomission), the German vaccine regulatory authority, have released a draft of their updated Covid vaccination recommendations.
The document excludes healthy children under 18 years of age from vaccination, because they’re not at serious risk from infection. Of course, we’ve known this for three years, but we’ve vaccinated almost 10 million kids anyway, all to no purpose. Maybe somebody can apologise, or something.
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Adults up to 59 years of age, meanwhile, should have three “immunological exposures” to SARS-2, one (but not two or three) of which can be infection. All those young adults who were forced into accepting boosters back in 2021 despite documented infections can just unboost themselves now, I guess. Too bad about that.
Finally, for at-risk groups and those 60 and over, STIKO recommends annual vaccination against Covid and influenza, preferably in the Fall, to reinforce protection during the winter months. For this recommendation as for all the others, they have no meaningful evidence to speak of.
Called upon to explain the newly relaxed approach, STIKO member Christian Bogdan tells the Süddeutsche Zeitung that “We have to get away a bit from the idea that we can prevent largely harmless respiratory infections via Covid-19 vaccines” and that “the primary goal of vaccination from the beginning” was “to protect against severe outcomes” (emphasis mine). I guess our whole government spent months planning vaccine mandates and excluding the unvaccinated from participation in most aspects of public life just to save all of us from severe infections. That’s why we had to hear about the tyranny of the unvaccinated and be harangued by state media news anchors for our personal medical choices, because the goal of vaccination was “from the beginning to protect against severe outcomes.”
In a way, it’s hard to believe STIKO are still issuing their vaccine encyclicals, and still harder to believe that this is the 25th time they’ve done so. An ordinary person beamed from 2019 into the present might ask why it has been necessary for all of government and society to obsess so repeatedly about these doubtful products, but our journalists accept this periodic ritual as totally normal. The product range and our knowledge have just expanded so much in the past few years, SZ assures us, it’s been hard for the regulators to keep up.
That’s not true, though, is it? Neither available vaccines nor the science have changed all that much since the whole circus started. What has changed since 2021, are attitudes towards vaccines, and Covid vaccines in particular. The job of regulators like STIKO is not to channel scientific findings into medical recommendations, but rather to achieve a politically workable (if highly idiosyncratic) triangulation between some subset of the scientific research and what is held to be culturally or socially acceptable in the moment. That’s why they can’t stop changing their minds, but they’ve discovered a small modicum of rationality now that most of the hysteria has boiled off.
P.S. Many readers have asked me to comment on reports that Switzerland have ended all vaccination recommendations, even for the old and the vulnerable. This is strictly true, but I fear the news has been somewhat exaggerated. As of 3 April, they have suspended all vaccination recommendations “in view of the anticipated low levels of virus transmission and the high levels of population immunity.” Yet they contemplate reinstating recommendations for “the especially vulnerable” in the Fall.