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Vaccinations Seen as Key Tool for Rebuilding Convention Industry

Meeting-industry and city leaders alike make the case for vaccinations. With the Pfizer vaccine fully approved, are more mandates coming to salvage in-person events?

On August 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the U.S. is extending by 30 days its restrictions on non-essential travel at land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through September 21. In response, the U.S. Travel Association both reproached DHS for its decision and reminded constituents of the importance of vaccinations.

“Travel restrictions are no longer protecting us from the virus—vaccines are,” wrote Tori Emerson Barnes, USTA executive vice president of public affairs and policy. “Every day that our land borders remain closed delays America’s economic and jobs recovery, causing greater damage to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism.”

Vaccinations, said Roger Dow, USTA president and CEO, in a July 28 statement, are “the fastest path to normalcy for all.”

With the Pfizer vaccine now fully approved by the FDA—it only had emergency-use authorization before August 23—vaccinations could play a larger role in controlling the spread of the virus, given that people might have more confidence in vaccine safety and then more communities and organizations might feel emboldened to require vaccinations. For one, the Pentagon will now mandate vaccines for active-duty service members.

San Francisco launched a vaccine mandate on August 30 for attendees at large indoor events and for visitors to bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other venues. A similar mandate was announced in New York City, with enforcement starting in early September. Discussing the vaccination requirement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “If we want to continue to open up, to make sure that people are healthy, to make sure we're protected, to make sure that we’re in a good place as a city from a public-health perspective, so that our economy can really recover to its fullest extent, we all have to do our part. We need to get vaccinated.”

In the meetings industry, a similar declaration came this month from Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association. In a LinkedIn post titled “It’s Our Time, We Need to Act,” he wrote to the industry asking all to do their part: “Over these past few months, many of us have had the opportunity to re-enable the connections, inclusivity, and innovation our audiences have been yearning for. Sadly, we are back at a crossroads. Our audiences now face the very real potential of another dark, lonely winter if we don’t collectively act and be part of the solution. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. … Let’s be on the right side of history and science. For the sake of your own health, those around you, and our economic reboot, please get vaccinated.”

Unfortunately, an uptick in the vaccination rate and any resulting decline in Covid-19 will be too late for VidCon, which just canceled its large October event at the Anaheim Convention Center. A sampling of other events that have canceled as a result of the recent surge in Covid cases linked to the more-transmissible delta variant include the New York Auto Show; New Orleans' Jazz and Heritage Festival; the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses annual meeting in Orlando; and the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers show in Orlando.

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