On March 25, 2021, PHLCVB Chief Health Advisor and Dean Emeritus of Jefferson’s College of Population Health, Dr. David Nash, and Dr. Leonard Friedland, Vice President, Director Scientific Affairs and Public Health for GSK Vaccines and PHL Health Advisor, discussed COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, testing, and the state of events and gatherings.
Read on for highlights from the webinar and to view the session.
“Science has led the way,” declared Dr. Friedland, acknowledging the evidence of high levels of effectiveness with the three available vaccines and two more on the way in the next few weeks. “It’s happening quickly and what’s getting us back to normal,” he affirmed, optimistic about the future of events. Lauding the “incredible scientific feat,” Dr. Nash indicated, “we’re at a tipping point” and expressed the need to continue with public health measures of mask wearing to let the “amazing science do its thing,” which would hasten the return of face-to-face meetings. “I’m looking forward to attending a medical meeting in late August,” asserted Nash, “as it will be spread out with mask wearing and onsite testing.”
Returning to Safe Meetings
To accelerate the return of safe meetings, Dr. Nash stressed considering all variables to outline a specific plan beforehand and be willing to adapt. “It’s a balancing act, like dials on a board, with the increasing availability of supply and access to vaccines, overcoming vaccine hesitancy, emergence of new variants out of our control, plus the public health response.”
Flexibility is Key
Nash advised being ready to adapt and that each meeting might be somewhat different. He referred to his daughter’s upcoming wedding this October. He, his wife, and daughter – all physicians – are requiring every guest and vendor be vaccinated, with no children present. “It was a tough decision,” said Nash, “even with those plans in place we will still be cautious and have a big space available to spread out.” On the challenge of asking vendors to comply, Dr. Nash noted, “flexibility will be key because we all have the same goals and objectives.”
The Importance of Testing
Testing is also critical and should be prioritized, urged Dr. Nash. “It’s especially important in the corporate setting for those who lack vaccine confidence along with people below the vaccine eligibility age of 16.” Nash also posited that vaccine passports will be inevitable.
Dr. Friedland credited Philadelphia’s public health efforts and deliberate approach to educate and bring vaccines to those who can’t easily get to them, with groups, like the Black Doctors Consortium, who have taken leadership roles. Having visited the FEMA vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, he hailed the center as an excellent location to host safe meetings with many opportunities for social distancing. Dr. Nash added that he can foresee in-person meetings there, and maybe even a trade show, in the fourth quarter of this year.
Learn more about the PHL Health Pledge, an initiative to increase awareness of Philadelphia’s readiness in safely welcoming back visitors and the PHL Health Advisors, a task force of experts from Philadelphia’s world-renowned medical community.