Health Shows to Require Proof of Vaccination
Two major events dedicated to health and science professionals have indicated they will require attendees to provide proof of vaccination to enter. The decisions, made by organizers of HIMSS21 Health and Safety Hub and HLTH 2021, are among the first large events to declare that in-person participants will need to be fully immunized as the country emerges from the pandemic.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated individuals did not need to wear a mask in most instances in which they are surrounded by others who have received their shots. The updated guidance, a major milestone in the COVID-19 recovery, is reliant on the honor system, according to the Biden administration.
However, some organizations are remaining cautious as the country slowly moves toward herd immunity. HLTH officials said the timing is simply not right to return to business as usual for its events, occurring Oct. 17-20 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
"The science is clear: vaccination is our best hope for stopping the spread of COVID, saving lives and putting an end to the pandemic," said Jonathan Weiner, founder and CEO of HLTH. "We owe it not only to our attendees but to the frontline healthcare providers, essential workers and healthcare industry professionals — who have sacrificed so much — to provide the safest possible onsite experience and encourage widespread vaccination."
Attendees for both shows are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their last dose — or only shot in the case of the Johnson & Johnson option.
While this may become a standard, and perhaps welcomed, practice among health-based programs, it is unlikely that this will be a universal standard among trade shows as a whole.
Currently, the most common method at establishments like restaurants and retail stores for checking an individual’s status is through a paper vaccination card distributed at the time of the shots. However, many software companies have been planning for this day, creating so-called digital passports to enter events.
HLTH, trying to set a standard for medical innovation, will employ CLEAR's Health Pass as the platform for registrants to show proof of vaccination. HIMSS, happening Aug. 9-13 across three venues in Las Vegas, has not said which platform it will partner with.
Because many COVID-19 safeguards have become divisive issues, it is improbable that all events will have the capability — or the desire to — to mandate vaccines. Many events, particularly in the sports world, are now simply recommending masks rather than mandating them. The NFL is the most notable group to declare full attendance once the season kicks off in the fall.
However, business events looking to put attendees’ minds at ease about returning to in-person gatherings face a dilemma when it comes to safety guidelines in what is becoming a freedom-of-choice debate.
Nevertheless, HMISS will continue with what have become standard practices of easing congestion among walkways and requiring speakers to use face shields or other accepted safeguards.
HLTH took the extraordinary step of adding the support from medical experts into its press release announcing the measure. Two examples include:
- "By requiring vaccination of all HLTH attendees, the organizers are ensuring all of us can be assured of the safest possible environment and not have to worry about COVID," said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania.
- "We've come a long way in the pandemic, but let's not forget our obligation to those who do not yet have immunity," said Dr. Leana Wen, public health professor at George Washington University, a speaker at HLTH 2021 and public health advisor to Americans throughout the pandemic. "Requiring vaccination is the right decision for HLTH and other large events, and will give attendees the confidence to take part, in-person, and fully engage with one another."
Both HLTH and HIMSS will produce digital components for those unable to attend in-person.