Vaccine mandates, or proof-of-vaccination, are increasingly being put into place for entry into meetings, events, and many destinations.
The Biden Administration may have raised both praise and hackles when it recently announced the U.S. government would be requiring all federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees to be fully vaccinated, but it’s far from alone in reconsidering vaccination requirements as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to cause increases in illness, hospitalizations and deaths, especially among the unvaccinated in areas with low vaccination rates.
While there currently are no vaccination mandates for travel on U.S. carriers within the U.S., only fully vaccinated foreign travelers can enter Canada currently. And it’s not just our neighbors to the North that are requiring proof of vaccination for international travelers. Countries from Albania to Zambia are also following suit. While some countries, notably the Netherlands, have relaxed their entry requirements to eliminate quarantines for some fully vaccinated travelers, their vaccination rules still apply.
Vaccine Mandates and Events a Good Idea?
Should events hop on this trend? Depending on their locale, they may not have a choice. Some destinations, such as San Francisco, also are starting to require proof of vaccination for entry at indoor venues. In others, including Nevada, groups can forgo indoor mask mandates as long as their events require proof of vaccination for entry.
And how do attendees feel about vaccine mandates for events? According to data from Gallup, more than half of Americans favor requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend an event with a large audience — 58% said they were in favor of vaccine mandates for large events, up from 55% in April.
The results were even more dramatic when Hendratta Ali, PhD, a geologist and an associate professor in the geosciences department at Fort Hays State University, asked on Twitter if professional organizations should have vaccination and masks requirements at fall in-person meetings. Eighty-seven percent of the 867 people who chimed in said yes, while only 7% said no, and 6% wanted to wait and see before making a decision. And this was over the summer, just as the delta variant was beginning to take hold.
As one person tweeted in reply, “I think for large conferences, in rooms full of people traveling from all over… yeah mask AND vaccinations ought to be required.”
And now, increasingly, they are.
Vaccine Mandates for Events: A Few Notable Examples
Some shows — such as InfoComm, scheduled to be held in Orlando in October, and NeoCon 2021, which is scheduled for Chicago in October — are giving attendees the choice of either providing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test as an entry requirement, more conferences and events are starting to require proof of vaccine, negative test or not, for entry.
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, scheduled for December 13–17 in New Orleans, is among the growing number of conventions that are requiring all who want to attend in person be fully vaccinated. Those who are not willing and/or able to be fully vaccinated by the show dates are welcome to participate in the hybrid event, said show organizers. With the show still a couple of months out, details remain to be worked out concerning exactly how AGU will be checking for compliance with the vaccine mandate while maintaining privacy during badge pickup on site, and whether it will require masking, which will depend on what local requirements are at the time of the event.
AGU’s organizers also are warning potential attendees that the event may have to have reduced attendance or go fully virtual depending on how things play out this fall. In a letter to attendees, AGU also assured that staff at the New Orleans Convention Center, which is hosting the meeting, and at the contracted area hotels also will be fully vaccinated.
One of the major meetings industry trade shows, IMEX America, also recently announced it would require that all attendees provide proof that they have received a full dose of a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccination. In making the vaccine-requirement announcement on Sept. 7, IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer said, “We’ve consulted widely about this decision and have been watching the events landscape in North America very closely these past weeks. The requirement for participants to prove their full vaccination status is fast becoming the unofficial ‘gold standard’ for large events in the U.S.” The question of masking requirements will be made closer to the show, which is scheduled for Nov. 9-11 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay.
Will Attendees and Exhibitors Rebel?
Given the divide in the Gallup research data, where the vaccinated and leftward-leaning are more pro-vaccine mandate and the unvaccinated and right-leaning are most likely to say no thanks, the answer likely will vary depending on the event’s constituents.
However, one bellwether might be the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference & Exhibition, which kicked off in August in Las Vegas as one of the first large healthcare convention to require proof of vaccination to attend. As with the AGU show, HIMSS provided a digital option for the opt-outs, but show organizers said they received a surprisingly small amount of pushback from attendees, and no exhibitors canceled.