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Event Tech Solutions for Covid Vaccine Screening

By Angela Tupper

Vaccination programs have played a major role in the return to in-person events, but they’ve also brought extra logistical challenges: Many planners now have to verify the vaccine status of attendees. Fortunately, some event tech providers now offer solutions.

Vaccine rollouts across the globe have helped to enable the gradual return to in-person events, but the process of verifying vaccine certificates has been fraught with difficulties from the beginning. Many event planners are currently stuck with checking paper print outs of vaccine cards at the door, while some have opted to hire third-party screening services.

Even with this solution, however, event organizers may not escape criticism. Thorben Grosser,  VP of product marketing and events for EventMobi, recently took to Twitter to alert event organizers about an alleged mishandling of the process:

“We have a serious issue with #eventsprofs checking vaccination cards. Being vaccinated is our best shot in getting our events safer. But handing vaccination card checks to Third Parties is risky. I was allowed to an event w/o sufficient documentation.”

Thorben Grosser, VP of product marketing and events, EventMobi

According to Grosser, Safe Expo (the organization handling the screening process) approved his vaccine certificate even though he accidentally uploaded a version without his name on it.

If third-party solutions aren’t the answer, what are the options? If anything, the idea of manual inspection is becoming increasingly impractical. With the emergence of Omicron, there may very well be the need to check for a third dose. Pfizer very recently released lab results that suggest a third shot of their vaccine provides 25 times more protection against Omicron than the standard two-dose regime. But can event organizers really be expected to manually check the validity of three separate doses as attendees enter the venue?

Fortunately, a variety of event tech providers are offering different kinds of health screening services. In this article, we briefly cover some government-backed vaccine passport systems, and then provide an overview of solutions from three different event tech companies: Aventri, VOW app, and Eventcombo.

 

Government-Run Digital Vaccine Certificates

As a follow-up to his criticism of Safe Expo, Thorben Grosser recommended relying on government-run digital vaccine certificates whenever possible. Many regions, however, still don’t have them. The technology for nationwide digital vaccine passes may exist, but some regions are reluctant to implement this kind of system.

In the US, an increasing number of states are adopting the SMART health app’s QR system as a kind of digital vaccine registry, but this service is still far from being available from coast to coast.

Across the Atlantic, the EU is spearheading a Digital Covid Certificate with a standardized system for tracking the vaccine status of EU citizens as they move across member nations. However, many details still need to be ironed out — such as setting consistent rules around when a booster shot will be required. In fact, this very issue was recently raised in an EEIA (European Exhibition Industry Alliance) Position Paper as an important factor in the recovery of B2B events.

A state-run vaccine passport program would provide an added layer of reliability, but until this kind of system is available across multiple regions, there will be a demand for private services.

 

Aventri: CLEAR Health Pass Integration

Early in November of this year, Aventri announced it was partnering with the CLEAR Health Pass to offer Covid health screening services through its event management platform and mobile app.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Currently, Aventri’s integration with the CLEAR Health Pass app functions through a deep link, and the company is planning for full integration by early next year.

The basic step-by-set process is as follows:

Adding Attendee Records

A link within the Aventri platform will redirect attendees to a dedicated event page within the CLEAR app. There, they can provide photo evidence of a government-issued ID, after which they can upload their Covid vaccination record and/or any testing results required by the event.

Verifying Attendee Records

The CLEAR app is then responsible for verifying the validity of these records. (If attendees have already entered their ID and vaccine records to the CLEAR app when going through airport screening services — or for a prior event — it is not necessary for them to re-upload these documents.)

Screening Attendees Upon Entry

During the check-in process, the attendee will then click the link to the CLEAR app to pull up their digital Health Pass, which will be green and include animation as confirmation that they have met the event’s entry requirements. Once the CLEAR app is fully integrated with the Aventri platform, event organizers will have the option to embed this clearance information within the event’s check-in QR code. In other words, it will evolve from a visual verification process to one in which the attendee’s phone (or ticket print-out) is scanned.

“We're using visual confirmation to verify vaccine status so that our customers can start using the solution immediately. We had a lot of interest in this right off the bat, so we wanted to get a solution to market as quickly as possible with the visual confirmation method.” 

Kurt Chessman, VP of corporate development & strategy, Aventri

 

WHAT CAN IT CHECK?

Through Aventri’s integration with the CLEAR Health Pass, event organizers can choose from a variety of Covid-related entry requirements, including:

1. Double vaccination only

2. Double vaccination or a negative test result

3. Double vaccination and a negative test result

4. A negative test result only

Chessman added, “You can even specify if you need a negative Covid test within the last 48 or 72 hours.”

 

WHAT ADDITIONAL SECURITY MEASURES DOES IT PROVIDE?

Here are the Aventri/CLEAR security measures at a glance:

1. Proof of Clearance Includes Animation and Photo: When attendees open the CLEAR app to prove that they meet the event’s entry requirements, their Health Pass will display a photo of the individual, along with a green bar that continually moves up and down. The use of animation is designed to prevent users from exploiting screenshots.

2. Photo ID Recorded With Phone Camera Only: Instead of being able to upload their photo ID from an image gallery, attendees must use CLEAR’s integration with the user’s camera phone to capture the ID in real time. “What that means is that you have to take a current picture of your ID to prove that you are who you're claiming to be,” said Chessman.

 

HOW DOES THE APP PROTECT ATTENDEE DATA?

Here are some of the ways that Aventri and CLEAR are working to protect attendee data:

1. HIPAA Compliance

2. IT Security Measures: These include encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems.

3. Attendee Control Over Data: Attendees can request to have their data purged.

4. Minimal Data Sharing: Event organizers will know if attendees meet their entry requirements, but they will not be given any specifics about sensitive health information. (For example, if the event accepts either a negative test result or vaccination, the organizer will not know which criteria the attendee meets.)

“Data privacy and information security are at the core of CLEAR’s strategy and their security program meets the highest governmental standards of data protection and privacy.”

Kurt Chessman, VP of corporate development & strategy, Aventri

 

WHO CAN BE SCREENED USING THIS SERVICE?

Although the CLEAR Health Pass could be used independently by venues wanting to screen their staff, Aventri’s integration is designed for verifying the health status of attendees only.

 

WHAT REGIONS DOES IT SERVICE?

Currently, Aventri’s integration with the CLEAR Health Pass is primarily designed for attendees who were vaccinated in the US.

 

VOW App: VOW Digital Health Screening at Scale

The VOW App — a centralized communications platform dedicated to the event, meeting, and hospitality space — developed a native health screening solution in response to the pandemic. Called VOW Digital Health, the platform allows event organizers to collect and verify attendee health records ahead of the event.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The VOW Digital Health service allows for a number of different customization options for the  screening process itself. Here is a basic overview of each step:

Adding Attendee Records

The attendee gains access to the health screening portal via a link, which can be sent using email or a cell phone text message. Users can then upload their ID, vaccination certificate, or test result(s) — although the test result function is only enabled during the window set by the organizer for advance testing.

Verifying Attendee Records

The event organizer then receives all of this information in real time. Once the records have been verified, they will appear checked off in a dashboard with the following categories: last name, first name, email, cell phone number, type (e.g. attendee, staff, etc.), account ID, PCR test, antigen test, and vaccine status.

Screening Attendees Upon Entry

Although VOW Digital Health is designed to provide clearance in advance, it also includes a check-in verification process. The app will display a “blue pass” with a QR code to show that they have met the event’s requirements. It’s also possible to incorporate this information into a check-in QR code, which can in turn be printed on tickets.

“Event organizers can’t play bouncer and deal with the reputational risk of denying entry to those who don't have clearance. We need to know Covid clearance status of all our attendees, guests, vendors, venues, and suppliers in advance. We Covid-clear everybody in advance and give organizers and employers the visibility they need.”

Jennifer Brisman, CEO, VOW and VOW Digital Health

 

WHAT CAN IT CHECK?

VOW Digital Health allows event organizers to choose from a variety of event entry requirements, including:

1. Double vaccination only

2. Double vaccination or a negative test result

3. A negative test result only

In addition to being able to set exactly how far in advance of the event that test results can be taken/uploaded, organizers can indicate whether they require PCR or antigen tests — or both. It’s also possible to add the CDC’s health screening questionnaire and specify whether a mask mandate will be in place.

“What we do is Covid-screen at scale. We're not a vaccine passport. We have a tool inside the app that allows an organizer or an employer to create any menu of needs, any choices for Covid screening.”

Jennifer Brisman, CEO, VOW and VOW Digital Health

 

WHAT ADDITIONAL SECURITY MEASURES DOES IT PROVIDE?

Here are VOW Digital Health’s security measures at a glance:

1. Option to Send Health Screening Link to Attendee Phone: For added security, event organizers can provide access to the health portal with a one-time link that’s sent directly to attendee phones via SMS. “It’s almost like 2FA [two-factor authentication] when you sign up for something and they send a code to your phone to confirm your identity,” explained Brisman.

2. Option to Use One-Time Link: If organizers choose to send the link via SMS, it can only be used once. “If in fact the next person tries to use your code, it shuts down its own capabilities.”

According to Brisman, this invite-only access helps to ensure that any IDs provided are valid: “There's not anyone in the world, other than a state registry, who could say this ID or this vaccine is valid. We operate from a private guest list, private attendee list, or private employee list, which is the first step in ensuring the IDs provided are genuine.”

 

HOW DOES THE APP PROTECT ATTENDEE DATA?

Here is VOW Digital Health’s data protection policy at a glance:

1. Data and Document Purging: Once documents have been verified, they are cleared from the system, along with all related data. Vaccine status, however, will remain on the app until booster shots are mandated.

2. IT Security Measures: Encryption of all sensitive data.

 

WHO CAN BE SCREENED USING THIS SERVICE?

VOW Digital Health can be used to screen attendees, venue staff, suppliers, and any number of other groups.

 

WHAT REGIONS DOES IT SERVICE?

VOW Digital Health mainly serves US-based events, although it does have some clients in the UK. It has also provided its service to international clients hosting events in the US.

 

Eventcombo: Providing Maximum Flexibility Across Regions

Eventcombo, an end-to-end event platform and mobile app provider, now includes a native system for recording and reporting on the vaccine status of attendees, event staff, and other stakeholders.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Through its vaccine-screening service, Eventcombo acts as the middleman between the event organizer and local authorities. This process can be customized depending on regional needs. Where possible, it can also include integration with state-run SMART health app registries.

Here is their step-by-step process at a glance:

Adding Attendee Records

Attendees upload their IDs and vaccine certificates directly into their Eventcombo account. Event organizers will have access to all of this information in real time. “In terms of practicality on the ground, you can't really take any action during the event outside of rejecting the attendee,” explained Eventcombo CEO Saroosh Gull. “The time before the event is critical because during the event it's already too late,”

Verifying Attendee Records

Eventcombo does not verify IDs or vaccine certificates itself. Instead, the platform acts as a go-between for event organizers wanting to coordinate the verification process through local authorities. The event organizer can specify the local authority they want to share this information with for verification purposes.

 

Screening Attendees Upon Entry

Through a visual verification process, attendees can show proof of clearance on their phones, or show a print-out confirming they meet vaccination entry requirements.

“We ourselves do not partner directly with any health organization. Think of us as the bridge between the organizer and the authority: We're allowing the organizer to record, track, and report on each attendee’s vaccine status. Some other providers offer this kind of verification, but through feedback, I've learned that the process is really painful. There are issues with faulty reporting and a clunky experience.”

Saroosh Gull, CEO, Eventcombo

 

WHAT CAN IT CHECK?

Eventcombo’s service facilitates vaccine verification only.

 

HOW DOES THE APP PROTECT ATTENDEE DATA?

Here are some of the ways that Eventcombo is working to protect attendee data:

1. HIPAA compliant

2. Accommodating EU and California State Laws: Eventcombo complies with the EU’s GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] policies and California’s CCPA [The California Consumer Privacy Act].

3. Masking PI Information: All personally identifying information is masked on the app.

4. Purging Data: All attendee data can be purged at the event organizer’s request. (Eventcombo formerly had a policy of deleting all attendee data 30 days after the event, but they discontinued this approach after feedback from event organizers.)

5. Preventing Employee Access to Data: Eventcombo employees do not have access to attendee health data. Only the event organizer and designated health authorities can access the information.

“We don't directly have access to it — ‘we’ meaning Eventcombo employees. The organizer is the only entity that has access to that data, and they are the ones who delegate access to a co-host or their employees. We act more as a steward.”

Saroosh Gull, CEO, Eventcombo

 

WHO CAN BE SCREENED USING THIS SERVICE?

Eventcombo’s vaccine-screening service can be used for attendees, venue staff, and suppliers. The event organizer simply needs to set up a separate registration category for any non-attendee groups.

 

WHAT REGIONS DOES IT SERVICE?

Eventcombo’s vaccine-screening service is designed to be used anywhere. “There are so many different geographies that we're currently focused on,” said Gull. “it's very much sensitive to the local municipality.”

 

IN CONCLUSION

Although we have come a long way over the past two years, the event industry is still adjusting to the long-term effects of Covid-19. Unless the pandemic abruptly changes course for unforeseen reasons, we will likely have more and more cause to verify the vaccine status of attendees at in-person events.

“You have second doses, and now you have boosters, and there is a lot of accountability there. It’s not a once-and-done deal, which is what everyone was initially thinking. It’s actually a six-month, 12-month, 18-month journey — and maybe even a two-year, three-year journey.” 

Saroosh Gull, CEO, Eventcombo

Fortunately, several event tech providers are already coming up with an array of solutions for different needs. In time, EventMB will likely have to update this guide. If we have learned anything over the course of the pandemic, it’s that the event industry is ready to evolve in the face of new challenges.

about the author

Angela Tupper
Angela Tupper is the deputy editor for EventMB, a branch of the Skift media company. She has been reporting on both event industry news and event technology for close to three years. Angela’s background includes a combination of writing, editing, marketing, and teaching roles, as well as hands-on experience with association events. With an interest in all topics related to events, she is keen to learn more from industry professionals. She currently calls Montreal, Canada, her home city.
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