The bizarre campaign to vaccinate German children against the recommendations of regulators and in the absence of all evidence
Whys were German politicians so eager, in summer 2021, to vaccinate school children? This was the question at the centre of yesterday’s post. I mean it in a very specific way. I understand this was a time of general vaccine mania, when everybody from local paediatricians to Chancellor Angela Merkel nourished wild dreams of ending the pandemic via mass vaccination. I want to know, however, what specifically drove German politicians to contradict the advice of their own advisory body, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO). I would also like to know why nobody will talk openly about this now, and why Britta Ernst, then-Minister of Education in Brandenburg, became so evasive when she was asked precisely this question.
eugyppius: a plague chronicle is a reader-supported publication. maybe you subscribe?
With much help from Stefanie, who has distinguished herself on Twitter for her highly detailed and relentless investigations of pandemic follies in Germany, I’ve assembled a general timeline of events between the crucial months of May and August 2021. This exercise has been enormously revealing, for showing how our science-following regime 1) subjected their own scientists to enormous political pressure when they issued an unwelcome recommendation on the vaccination of children, then 2) sought to undermine the force of this advice by urging teenagers to get vaccinated anyway, before it all became too much and 3) their own scientists folded and changed their advice.
To this day, The Science has never been able to produce anything that speaks in favour of vaccinating healthy children against Covid-19. The vaccines are riskier for them than the virus, and even the vaccinators’ own data shows that this is so. Despite this, we jabbed millions and millions of teenagers, maiming and killing a non-trivial number of them, for purely political reasons. To say that this is a great scandal, is an understatement.
The first phase of our story unfolds in mid-May, when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) were weighing whether to approve the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for 12–17 year-olds. Then-Health Minister Jens Spahn at this point was already planning a massive teenager vaccination campaign. He wanted to send children to the vaccination centres and he wanted “serial vaccinations” in schools. The goal, he told Deutschlandfunk, was to get all teenagers vaccinated by the end of August, before the end of the summer holidays. The vision from the very beginning, then, was to vaccinate children ahead of the 2021/22 school year. This is very important.
On 28 May, the EMA approved BioNTech/Pfizer for children as expected. At a “vaccination summit,” Chancellor Angela Merkel and the minister presidents of the German states began making concrete plans to jab children. STIKO head Thomas Mertens, however, cautioned the vaccines were not “candy,” but rather serious medical interventions, and that the mere opening of schools after the holidays was not in itself a justification to vaccinate anybody.
German politicians were not pleased:
“Children and adolescents can become infected and pass on the virus, which is why they must be offered vaccination – as long as it has been approved and the benefits and risks have been assessed,” Minister President of Niedersachsen Stephan Weil (SPD) told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND). The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO), however, recently signalled they may not issue a general recommendation for children for at the moment. Weil cannot understand this: “The fact that the Standing Committee on Vaccination are now suddenly questioning the sense of universal vaccination of schoolchildren confuses me and many other people.”
On 10 June, STIKO finally issued their recommendation, advising that the vaccines were only suitable for teenagers with specific preconditions. This drained all energy from the initiative to jab teenagers. For weeks afterwards major politicians stopped talking about it, but the federal government nevertheless opened vaccinations to the entire age group. They could allow 12–17 year-olds to get vaccinated, even if STIKO did not think it was a good idea. Into the discursive void, various doctors began explaining to an impatient press why caution was warranted and why mass-jabbing kids was not a good idea.
In July, fearful that they were losing control of the narrative, politicians began striking back. At first they were tentative. On 2 July, the FDP politician Christian Lindner appeared on Maybrit Illner’s evening talkshow to call for “mobile vaccination teams” at schools. Three days later, SPD head Saskia Eskin demanded STIKO revise their assessment and recommend the jabs generally to all teenagers. It must have been around this time that Cornelia Betsch began work on her manipulative school flyer, telling children in Thüringen how they might get vaccinated even without their parents’ consent. The original vision, of vaccinating the 12–17s before the end of summer holidays, remained in force and it was being carried out in stealth.
Two days after Betsch published her flyer, Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder gave an interview to BR24, in which he characterised STIKO as “volunteers,” whose hesitation was in opposition to European regulators who had already approved the jabs. The EMA, he said, were the “professionals,” while the amateurs on STIKO were sowing “uncertainty.”
It was an unheard-of public attack from a leading Gerrman politician on an independent scientific advisory body, and STIKO took to the press to defend themselves:
“The statements by Mr Söder and others about STIKO and its work are unusual, even considering the election season, and they require correction,” the Commission said in a statement on Friday …
Individual STIKO members spoke even more clearly .... “Markus Söder has gone too far with these statements,” Rüdiger von Kries said… “His behaviour and his statements are unacceptable.” It “goes too far” to discredit a scientific advisory body because its opinion does not suit him … Söder’s escalation was “wrong, unnecessary and it helps no one.” Von Kries called on Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) to back the commission.
Fred Zepp, a paediatrician from Mainz who has been a member of the STIKO for many years, complained … that politicians like Markus Söder are demanding that the scientists change their recommendation for no reason. “Even in an election season, this is an unusual exertion of influence by someone who is not medically competent,” Zepp said …
Söder remained undeterred. On 23 July, he demanded a general vaccination program for adolescents despite STIKO hesitation, and his tactics were catching on. Schleswig-Holstein announced they would send mobile vaccination teams through their schools in August. The turning point came on 29 July. On this day, leading Green politician Robert Habeck asked STIKO to reconsider their “hesitation”; and Brandenburg Minister of Education Britta Ernst issued her demand for child vaccinations. When asked why she did so by the Brandenburg Corona Investigatory Committee, you’ll remember, she became oddly evasive, referring implausibly to pressure from parents. In fact, her statements were clearly coordinated with those of other leading politicians. You can also see bizarre activity in the press at this time. Tagesspiegel, for example, ran an amazing article with a teaser falsely claiming that STIKO now recommended the vaccination of teenagers, and reporting on a secret network of doctors who had begun to illegally vaccinate under-12s.
STIKO remained initially intransigent, but they were losing the war, as it became clear that German politicians were determined to vaccinate 12–17 year-olds with or without their approval. On 2 August, Karl Lauterbach joined the chorus of those demanding a teenage vaccination programme, and the health ministers of the federal states resolved to make everyone in the age group an offer of vaccination. Regulators in Saxony went rogue and issued their own recommendation to vaccinate over-12s. A week later, Berlin’s health senator, Dilek Kalayci (SPD) even wrote a letter to all 180,000 school children in her city advising them to seek vaccination.
“We want to enable a return to a largely normal life,” Kalayci wrote. “This also includes running schools with as few infections and restrictions as possible.” She went on to say “that the high vaccination rates save lives,” especially among “your grandparents” – “That was good, but it's still not enough!”
Here we see again the manipulative get-vaccinated-to-save-your-family messaging that the arch-vaccinator Cornelia Betsch had pioneered on 14 July. Kalayci’s letter glossed over the fact that STIKO did not yet recommend vaccinations for teenagers:
“Not much was known about the after-effects and side effects of the vaccination at the time of the recommendation. (...) In the meantime, around 10 million children and adolescents aged 12 and over have been vaccinated worldwide.” The letter does not explain the significance of this figure as far as possible side effects is not explained. Nor does it mention that, according to the STIKO, the virus is far less dangerous for children and adolescents than for adults.
It was on 2 August that STIKO began to waver. Its head, Mertens, told Spiegel that they were working on revising their recommendations; and Ulrich Heininger, a STIKO member, was quoted saying that “children and youth have a right to be vaccinated against Covid-19.” On 16 August, they finally put forth a draft recommendation in favour of vaccinating all 12–17 year-olds, which took effect three days later.
What do we learn from all of this?
1) The plan to vaccinate children before the end of the 2021 school holidays took shape very early, before any regulatory body anywhere had approved the jabs for this age group.
2) When STIKO failed to advise child vaccination in line with this plan, they were immediately undermined by the Federal Government, which opened the jabs for teenagers anyway.
3) Behind the scenes, odious health communicators like Cornelia Betsch began assembling propaganda targeted at children urging them to get vaccinated against STIKO advice, and possibly even without the consent of their parents.
4) Perhaps judging that this stealth campaign would not be enough, the Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder began attacking STIKO in the press. Söder had distinguished himself throughout the pandemic by demanding always and everywhere the most invasive, interventionist hygiene policies that were politically supportable. Söder loved to argue that he was merely Following the Science, which made it awkward for him to demand child vaccination against the advice of Germany’s own scientists.
5) He got around this by lying. He told Bavarian television that the EMA approval and the STIKO recommendation were at odds with each other. In fact, the two bodies have totally different prerogatives; it is the regulators of EU member states who are charged with weighing the risks and the benefits of medical interventions within the bounds of what the EMA has approved.
6) Something happened in the final days of July that caused the entire political establishment to take Söder’s line. This something is surely related to the timing of the school holidays. By early August, the health ministers resolved to vaccinate teenagers regardless of what STIKO said, and politicians began falling all over themselves to undermine the advisory body. STIKO finally reversed themselves, not because any new evidence had come to light, but because the political pressure had become too great.
eugyppius: a plague chronicle is a reader-supported publication. maybe you subscribe?