Health Minister Lauterbach Receives Covid Booster Vaccine
© Christian Marquatdt - Pool / Getty ImagesGerman Health Minister Karl Lauterbach receives a Covid booster vaccine on September 18, 2023 in Berlin, Germany.
The latest Covid Juice release is for sale in Germany as of Monday, and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was first in line. There's abundant evidence that he's not a great fan of vaccination; he got his third dose in secret, well after the rest of the vaccinators, and his claims to have gotten a fourth are subject to considerable doubt. No matter: he's learned from past mistakes, and while he's denounced the "exorbitant" profits of vaccine manufacturers and called vaccine injuries "dismaying", the Vaccinator Stand is the only booth still open at the Covid Circus, so Lauterbach has made himself the face of it. He turned 60 in February, so technically he counts as old and vulnerable enough to warrant a fifth (or a fourth) vaccination.

From Die Zeit:
[Lauterbach] has ruled out state virus measures despite rising infection statistics. Germany is "much better prepared", he said, and there is additionally "broad immunity" in the population. "We don't need any contact restrictions" ...

Voluntary masking is still advisable for those who are infected and cannot avoid social contacts, said Lars Schaade, the President of the Robert Koch Institute.

Lauterbach advises caution despite the lack of Government action. Corona is "not a cold", and permanent damage - for example from Long Covid - remains a possibility. Lauterbach therefore recommends vaccination above all for people who are particularly at risk. "People over 60 years of age and risk groups should get vaccinated, preferably against influenza as well," said the Minister.
In a separate piece timed to coincide with the rollout, Die Zeit called up a Bremen epidemiologist who says he expects masks to return to clinics and care homes, and who holds out hope for expanded vaccine recommendations in the course of the winter. I'm quite sure some care homes will once again impose inhumane mask requirements, but there's no chance vaccine regulators will urge wider uptake. We're in a long, slow process of deradicalisation, and that only runs in one direction.

On the Left, Tageszeitung (taz) — basically a cut-rate German Guardian — has already registered its displeasure that the vaccines are a) no longer free and b) no longer being urged on absolutely everybody:
It's not so easy to stay healthy in Germany. Now that virtually all protective measures have been lifted, vaccination is also on the block. The Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) couldn't bring itself to recommend the booster for everyone. Now only certain, narrowly defined risk groups are allowed to be immunised... The rest will have to explain why they want to be vaccinated. ...

What is more, because the health insurance companies hide behind the STIKO recommendation, you have to pay for the vaccination yourself. At a cost of probably just under €50 per jab. In view of the vaccination campaigns 'Sleeves up' (2021) and 'Vaccination helps' [2022], this is totally absurd. The Federal Ministry of Health spent €287 million and €38 million on these campaigns. The motto for 2023 would then rather be: "Well, let's see."

In the USA, the CDC recommends vaccination for all people over six months of age. From the very start of the pandemic, STIKO has acted with extreme hesitation and thus contributed to the general uncertainty. It's partly responsible for the growing number of vaccine sceptics in Germany.
Indeed it's interesting that the Health Ministry has so quickly forgotten its vaccination appeals from just last year. With a little more introspection, taz might've drawn some important conclusions from this curiosity. As for STIKO and vaccine hesitancy, I fear they've gotten it backwards. The regulators are plainly trying to preserve remaining public faith in vaccines by reining in their mass Covid jab campaigns.

Holger Schelp, Chairman of the General Practitioners' Association in Bremen remarked to local media this morning that there will be no "great rush" for the new jabs, admitting that "interest is so low that many practices have not even ordered the vaccine".
The official recommendation... is that everyone who is 60 or older, or who belongs to an at-risk group, should be vaccinated.

The evidence supporting this recommendation isn't very strong though. It's based on small numbers. We doctors don't know how many people we'd have to vaccinate to prevent an infection, or how many we need to vaccinate to prevent a death. ... I think that's a bit embarrassing for a large-scale vaccination effort.

Most colleagues therefore tell their patients the official line, and then add unofficially that, in all honesty, there is no good knowledge about whether they should get vaccinated or not. Patients should therefore go with their gut feeling. We also don't want to vaccinate anyone who might feel pressured to get the jab. We want them to say: "Yes, I need it." Or to say with a clear conscience: "No, I'm sceptical, I'm not going to get vaccinated now." (emphasis added)
That may not sound like much, but you need to remember that these are words from an important medical bureaucrat in the most heavily vaccinated German state.

This, then, is how it ends. All the Very Important Science People have been wrong about everything, which means that none of them can pull the plug on this farce. They'll continue their doubtful performances, selling slightly updated versions of failed pharmaceutical products and making claims well in excess of the evidence to an ever shrinking audience of virus enthusiasts. These dead-enders will shriek that they've been abandoned; they'll write long meandering columns full of hand-wringing about "crowded waiting rooms, trains, classrooms and offices", pleading that we need more "hybrid teaching" and more vaccine outreach, all of it to a suddenly indifferent political class. With all eyes on the upcoming state elections in Bavaria and Hesse, nobody cares what they have to say. The major papers are closed to their fears, although virologically nothing has changed since last Fall, when Covid was dangerous enough to warrant lingering mask mandates and wall-to-wall vaccine marketing. Even virus fangirl Christina Berndt has been brought into line, penning mild vaccine FAQs for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Forgotten is the Oktoberfest scaremongering to which she treated us just 12 months ago.

Covid was the original focus of the Plague Chronicle, and for that reason it will always be an important theme of this blog - but as political stories go, this one has played out. For lockdowns and mass vaccination to come back, they'll need a new virus. I have no doubt at all that they're already looking for one.