With COVID-19 still prevalent, HIMSS has selected two vendors to verify all attendees are vaccinated for its upcoming conference. A look at how the organization set up its verification process and advice for other groups considering adding a vaccine requirement.
When the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society decided to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for its conference attendees, one thing it had to figure out was how to verify their vaccination status. For its HIMSS21 Global Conference in August, the organization selected CLEAR Health Pass Validation and Safe Expo Vaccine Concierge Validation to provide verification.
“Attendees, in order to pick up their badge, need to have their vaccination verified through one of these outlets, or they can bring their vaccination card onsite and go through the process onsite,” said Karen Groppe, senior director of strategic communications for HIMSS.
All registrants, from staff to vendors to attendees, must show vaccine verification to receive their badge.
“Everybody—from the audio-visual production team to security—has to be vaccinated,” Groppe said. “Not one of our keynote speakers has declined. They all love the vaccine requirement.”
Groppe said the verification process was quite simple. “I had to take a picture of myself, my driver’s license, and my vaccine card,” she said. “Once they had my vaccine card, they went through their process and came back with [a screen that said], ‘Here is your health pass to access HIMSS21.’”
The vaccine requirement will give attendees options regarding masking. Groppe noted that the local rules covering Las Vegas [at press time] said that all people—including those who are vaccinated—should wear masks in enclosed spaces if they are unsure of the vaccination status of those around them.
Because HIMSS21 requires vaccination, attendees will have the option to go without a mask in any room that requires a HIMSS21 badge to enter. The event is being held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which has some spaces open to the general public, so the recommendation based on local rules is to mask in general areas and choose your mask comfort level in HIMSS21 areas.
“How you decide to go out into a pandemic world is very individual,” Groppe said. “We are encouraging folks to understand what is going on in Las Vegas and the precautions one should take, even though they’re vaccinated. I know for myself, I will wear a mask to and from, any time I’m outside the [conference] bubble.”
ADVICE FOR OTHER ASSOCIATIONS
For associations planning a vaccine requirement, Groppe had two points of advice. First, expect more questions, as one would have any time a new procedure is implemented. CLEAR and Safe Expo answer specific questions related to their verification processes, but staff are getting questions too.
“We send out directions every other day. It’s all over our website, but people still call with questions,” Groppe said. “That is in addition to all the other questions we traditionally receive around conferences—all of the last-minute details. So that’s why I say, pack your patience.”
The second piece of advice is to be ready to depart from the norm of accommodating members. HIMSS has a no exceptions policy for vaccination.
“Association staff are used to being accommodating of our members,” Groppe said. “To have to say, ‘No, you cannot come because of our requirements,’ that is a hard thing for association staff to get their heads around. One thing we’ve learned with this is you have to approach it very clinically. The clinical approach is, these are our rules, these are what we’re sticking to, and there are no exceptions. In an association world with a pandemic, you have to be really strict. It’s uncomfortable.”