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Yes, vaccination will be required to attend HIMSS this year

One of the biggest healthcare conferences of the year — and one of just a handful of in-person events slated for 2021 — will require proof of vaccination to attend.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which is hosting its annual conference in Los Vegas in August, confirmed on Monday that it will require both attendees and exhibitors to be fully vaccinated.

To meet the criteria, attendees must have received a full series of one of the vaccines that has received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization, according to a post on HIMSS’ website.

While the update brings some much-needed clarity for potential conference-goers, there are still some details to iron out. HIMSS hasn’t yet shared how it will confirm if someone has been vaccinated, but seems to be considering one of several “vaccine passport” apps that have been developed in recent months. 

Given the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent shift in mask guidelines, events will also grapple with the question of whether or not to require attendees to wear masks. HIMSS hasn’t yet specified how it will tackle this for its August conference.

In an email, HIMSS Senior Director for Strategic Communications Karen Groppe wrote that more details would become available closer to the date of the conference, and would be based on CDC and Nevada guidelines.

HIMSS hasn’t yet shared how many people have registered to attend its conference in-person, or plan to attend a virtual version of the event. So far, just short of 500 companies are registered as exhibitors. In 2019, HIMSS said more than 42,500 people registered to attend and more than 1,300 companies exhibited.

HIMSS is hosting the event at the Wynn Las Vegas, the Venetian-Sands Expo Center and the Caesars Forum Conference Center.

Another conference hosted later this year by HLTH will also require proof of vaccination. Planned for mid-October at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, the conference will use a vaccine screening tool developed by CLEAR — a startup better known for its expedited security lines at airports.

(Editor’s note: MedCity News is a partner of HLTH and creates content focused on patient engagement for its annual conference.)

In a Monday blog post, HLTH CEO Jonathan Weiner wrote that the vaccine requirements would come as a relief for most people.

“We all play an important role, and have a responsibility, in pushing for herd immunity — for our mutual health, for the overall economy and as the only means of protecting those who may not have an option to get vaccinated,” he wrote. “Further, clear assurance that we’re adhering to the highest standards of health protection will facilitate confidence and reduce concerns for those attending our event in person and looking to us to do the right thing.”

As for the CDC’s new mask guidance, he hoped that by requiring vaccines, the conference could minimize social distancing restrictions and make wearing masks a personal decision.

Carolyn Joyce, director of marketing for HLTH, wrote that the conference would release more information over the coming months, and that all decisions would be based on local and CDC guidelines.

Photo credit: Hyatt McCormick

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