H&E North asks whether vaccination certificates are an effective way back to staging live events and weighs up the ethical challenges they pose.
Of the many ways to navigate our way out of the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccine or immunity passport has to be one of the most controversial. Some have branded the
idea discriminatory, while others believe it to be inevitable and the only safe way for the world to open up once again.
With the government having set targets for every adult to be vaccinated by the autumn, proof of vaccination could be a safe way for people to begin to travel and come together at events again. Yet as petitions against vaccine passports gain momentum, the morality of such a scheme which segregates those who are medically unable, are further down the priority list, or may simply exercise their right not to be vaccinated, has come under scrutiny.
While this may seem the quickest and safest way to enable live events to reopen, many questions still remain. Could we see venues and event organisers require a vaccine
passport from staff before they can work, throwing up yet another barrier in the face of recruitment challenges? Will the government place a legal burden on venues to demand a vaccine passport as a condition of entry, and how will the logistical and data protection aspects of checking this work?
Event planner and hospitality consultant Liz Taylor of the Taylor Lynn Corporation reflects on the practicalities and moral dilemmas the vaccination passport scheme would pose for the industry.
A route to reopening
Ordinarily, I would throw my full weight behind anything that would allow the events industry to open up again and let us get back to doing what we love. And as
the pandemic continues, with new strains emerging, I can see that some companies and private clients may look to a vaccine passport for reassurance of safety. And also
some planners, as a route to reopen their decimated businesses. However, I do have both moral and logistical doubts over the idea of immunity passports.
In terms of large-scale events, it would put pressure on the security and event management team to identify anyone who doesn’t have an immunity passport. And if
we do, what do we do with them? If entry is to be refused for those who don’t have immunity, communication would have to be very clear about the fact that a passport is a
prerequisite to entering the event.
Plus, there’s the issue if someone did slip through the net. What would happen if somebody were to contract COVID-19 at an event and where would the blame lie? Would there be a legal implication? We would have to be extremely hot on collecting and storing personal data for years to come.
The differing rates of vaccinations among age groups also poses a problem. For example, if we were organising a work recognition event, ahead of the time that
all UK adults have been vaccinated, would there be different rules for different age groups, with some able to mix and others segregated? Social distancing and other
virus control rules would surely still have to apply across the entire event. And many of our events include delegates from all levels of the company and I am sure some
businesses will consider smaller, ‘less risky’ events for management. But this surely defeats the morale and team building elements of these events?
Suppliers and international guests
There would also be an implication for the staff we are able to hire. In our industry we rely heavily on freelance workers, many of those travelling from abroad. Undoubtedly, those who have been vaccinated will be a more employable prospect than those who have not. For an international event, with vaccination programmes happening at differing rates, there will also be a knock-on effect. Many of the companies I work with have offices across the globe. Do they split their team, with some attending virtually, while others enjoy the experience of a live event?
And what about the performing artists who travel internationally to entertain our audiences? If they are from a country that has been unable to vaccinate at the rate
the UK has, they could be unable to work here.
Logistics aside, the biggest question for me is whether requiring a person to disclose their medical records is an infringement on their human rights? The freedom to choose our lifestyle, including whether or not we want to be vaccinated, should surely be just that – a choice. Restricting freedoms such as whether a person can attend a concert or watch a football match based on their vaccination status could be a dangerous route to a more discriminatory dystopian society.