Vaccine Opens Way for Meetings

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A customer Zoom call with The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Chief Health Advisor, Dr. David Nash, and PHL Life Sciences Advisory Board Member, Dr. Leonard Friedland, shared the latest news about the COVID vaccine and its impact on 2021 meetings.

In the call with Dr. David Nash, dean emeritus at Jefferson College of Population Health, and Dr. Leonard Friedland, vice president, director scientific affairs and public health at GSK Vaccines, sponsored by the PHLCVB, the experts shed some light on the new vaccine and when meetings might return to normal.

Both experts were hopeful that would happen in late 2021. Herd immunity, which will only occur when 60 to 70 percent of a community is vaccinated so it can’t be spread, is a long way off, and both acknowledged that people will still need to continue to socially distance, wear masks and wash their hands until that is achieved.

“In Philadelphia, the CVB has created a health advisor committee will help make sure everyone who comes here will be safe. Our airport even has a place where people can now get rapid testing,” said Friedland. “We want to make sure we can do this safely for everybody who comes here.”

Dr. Nash doesn’t predict that larger meetings with hundreds of people will get back into swing until “deep into 2021, when most people who want it will have been vaccinated.

“Let’s hope that 60 percent of the population do so, so we have herd immunity,” he continued. “If we do all those things, there’s an opportunity to do larger meetings with testing that is highly specific with quick turnaround and with proof of vaccination.

“That does not mean I would be comfortable going to an open buffet, we still will need separate portions and to be attentive to room cleaning, traffic flow, and the like. The time when we are packed tightly into a room is not going to happen in 2021—or it won’t be a meeting I would go to.”

Both experts were enthusiastic about the rollouts of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and confident in their safety and efficacy. “I am absolutely reassured that no shortcuts were taken with these vaccines,” said Dr. Friedland. “The two vaccines each enrolled more than 30,000 patients in their trials and all of the documents are available to the general public. They are safe and the benefits of taking them outweigh any risk.”

Despite their sentiments and those of the country’s public health leaders, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and soon to be chief medical adviser to President-Elect Joe Biden, many Americans will be fearful of taking them—including meeting attendees.

“It’s important that we not talk down to people who are against the vaccine,” said Dr. Nash. “We need to understand where they are coming from. There are books and conferences all promoted by the anti-vaccine community and you can’t deny the size and scope of this group. You have to set a good role model but realize that not everyone feels the same way as you do.”

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.