HIMSS, HLTH conferences will require attendees, exhibitors to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19

HIMSS
HIMSS said it will likely use one or more digital health apps, often called "vaccine passports," to confirm the vaccination status of each attendee and exhibitor. (Fierce Healthcare)(FierceHealthcare)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include information about HLTH's vaccination requirement.

If you want to set foot inside the Venetian-Sands Expo Center in August for HIMSS21, or even the HLTH conference in Boston later this year, you will have to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) announced Monday morning that it has adopted a “vaccination required” approach for all attendees, exhibitors, and HIMSS staff for HIMSS21, slated to take place August 9-13 in Las Vegas. 

HIMSS21 will be the largest on-site healthcare conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HIMSS21 "campus" includes events at the newly expanded Wynn meeting space, the Venetian-Sands Expo Center and the newly built Caesars Forum Conference Center.

In practice, this means anyone who wants to be involved with the on-site HIMSS21 event will have to provide proof of their full vaccination.

"After careful consideration and consultation with internal and external health and safety experts, HIMSS has determined that HIMSS21 can be the most robust, productive, and interactive conference possible by requiring vaccinations for entry," the organization said in the new guidance.

Another healthcare event, HLTH, also announced Monday that it is requiring all attendees to its in-person event in October to be fully vaccinated.

HTLH 2021 will take place in Boston Oct. 17-20.

"We cannot and will not ignore the science: vaccinated individuals are the most unlikely demographic to catch or transmit COVID. Those who remain unvaccinated, are the most at risk and also pose a significant risk to others," Jonathan Weiner, founder and chief executive officer of HLTH wrote in a blog post.

HLTH said registrants will be able to use CLEAR’s Health Pass to submit proof of vaccination.

RELATED: HIMSS to pay $2.8M to settle class action lawsuit brought by HIMSS20 exhibitors over show fees

According to the new guidance posted in the HIMSS21 Health and Safety Hub, conference officials are "assessing solutions for validating vaccination status."

HIMSS will likely use one or more digital health apps, often called "vaccine passports" to confirm that the vaccination status of each attendee and exhibitor, officials said in the guidance.

The digital health tools that HIMSS will use will likely display a HIMSS21 pass status that will be checked, along with a HIMSS21 badge, to permit entry onto any of the HIMSS21 events, the organization said.

"HIMSS is evaluating validation solutions with a focus on accessible, privacy-preserving technologies. We will provide attendees, exhibitors, and HIMSS staff further guidance in coming weeks on accepted proof and validation solutions," the event organizers said.

According to HIMSS, for the purposes of right of entry to the on-site conference, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

The conference protocol guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as AstraZeneca/Oxford, as of May 10, 2021.

If an attendee, exhibitor, or HIMSS staff member does not meet these requirements, they are not considered fully vaccinated and will not be permitted to enter the HIMSS21 event, the organization said.

Considered one of the largest health IT events in the industry, the five-day HIMSS conference typically takes place in March. The HIMSS20 event went fully virtual and the organization announced in July 2020 it was pushing back the HIMSS21 event to August.

RELATED: HIMSS CEO Wolf says exhibitor sign-ups for 2021 conference 'exceeding' expectations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance last week that people who are fully vaccinated no longer must wear masks or social distance in large or small indoor and outdoor gatherings.

HIMSS officials are still currently assessing evolving public health guidance regarding the use of masks in large gathering settings and will provide additional guidance on mask-wearing at the event before July 19, 2021.

In the HLTH blog post, Weiner wrote that the organization is aiming to make the wearing of masks "a personal decision and minimize social distancing restrictions throughout HLTH 2021--including the evening networking events."

All decisions will be based upon guidance from state and local leadership as well as best practices determined by the CDC, he wrote.

Regarding other on-site health and safety measures at HIMSS21, HIMSS said it is working with the venue to provide "rigorous onsite cleaning of all venue locations," including upgraded HVAC systems that allow increased ventilation and filtration and improve ambient air quality.

In the exhibit hall, HIMSS will facilitate appropriate space between and within booths and exhibitor sites and make additional efforts to alleviate any potential congestion.

In 2019, the HIMSS conference had an estimated 42,000 attendees on-site, the organization reported. As of Feb. 2, close to 10,000 peak hotel rooms have been reserved in Las Vegas for the August dates and more than 400 exhibitors have committed to the conference.