This week, the stock market exploded and Americans were given a renewed sense of hope when pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that their new COVID-19 vaccine showed a 90% efficacy rate on an initial clinical trials.
According to Pfizer, the results of their Phase 3 trial, shows its vaccine is far more effective than the seasonal flu shot — which had a dismal efficacy rate of 29 percent during the 2018-19 flu season, according to Centers for Disease and Control statistics.
After news of Pfizer's purported vaccine success, the concert ticket giant, Ticketmaster announced a rather controversial move. Hoping to resume the concert scene in 2021, Ticketmaster has been working on a framework that will make concertgoers prove they have received the vaccine before attending a show.
If you cannot prove vaccination, you cannot enter the show unless, of course, you get tested within a 24-72 hour window beforehand and submit this information to the concert giant. As it is against the law for unauthorized outside parties to view an individual's health record, Ticketmaster will rely on three separate components for their plan — which is still in its development stages.
According to their plan, the Ticketmaster digital ticket app, third party health information companies like CLEAR Health Pass or IBM's Digital Health Pass and testing and vaccine distribution providers like Labcorp and the CVS Minute Clinic will work together to determine your concert eligibility.
As Billboard reports:
Here's how it would work, if approved: After purchasing a ticket for a concert, fans would need to verify that they have already been vaccinated (which would provide approximately one year of COVID-19 protection) or test negative for coronavirus approximately 24 to 72 hours prior to the concert. The length of coverage a test would provide would be governed by regional health authorities -- if attendees of a Friday night concert had to be tested 48 hours in advance, most could start the testing process the day before the event. If it was a 24-hour window, most people would likely be tested the same day of the event at a lab or a health clinic.
Once the test was complete, the fan would instruct the lab to deliver the results to their health pass company, like CLEAR or IBM. If the tests were negative, or the fan was vaccinated, the health pass company would verify the attendee's COVID-19 status to Ticketmaster, which would then issue the fan the credentials needed to access the event. If a fan tested positive or didn't take a test to verify their status, they would not be granted access to the event. There are still many details to work out, but the goal of the program is for fans to take care of vaccines and testing prior to the concert and not show up hoping to be tested onsite.
Ticketmaster would not store or have access to fans' medical records and would only receive verification of whether a fan is cleared to attend an event on a given date. Different states will have different requirements. The main role of companies like health pass companies will be to collect data from testing and medical providers and deliver status updates to partner companies in a secure, encrypted way that complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Currently, the FDA has not approved any third party companies to distribute real time vaccination data but Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich told Billboard he expects demand for digital screening services to skyrocket once a vaccination is ultimately approved and distributed.
“We’re already seeing many third-party health care providers prepare to handle the vetting — whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test or other methods of review and approval — which could then be linked via a digital ticket so everyone entering the event is verified,” Yovich said.
While this will certainly be a controversial issue, the idea of a private company asking for your compliance to voluntarily participate in their event is not immoral, as you are not being forced to attend. That being said, however, many people — even those who will be lining up first to receive the vaccine — will likely refuse to have their private medical information handed between multiple parties just to see a concert.
After news reports concerning Ticketmaster's screening protocol received massive public backlash, the company released a statement clarifying their screening requirements.
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We have noticed there has been some misreporting around safety protocols. To clarify, there is absolutely no requirement from Ticketmaster mandating vaccines/testing.
In short, we are not forcing anyone to do anything. Just exploring the ability to enhance our existing digital ticket capabilities to offer solutions for event organizers that could include testing and vaccine information with 3rd party health providers. Just a tool in the box for those that may want to use.
- There is absolutely no requirement from Ticketmaster mandating vaccines/testing for future events. Unfortunately, this has been widely reported and is incorrect. Ticketmaster does not have the power to set policies around safety/entry requirements, which would include vaccines and/or testing protocols. That would always be up to the discretion of the event organizer, based on their preferences and local health guidelines.
- We are exploring a number of safety features for event organizers to utilize as they look to welcome fans back to events. This includes tools from Ticketmaster’s recently announced SmartEvent suite like social distanced seating, contactless entry and more (read more info on SmartEvent here). Again, the event organizer will determine what, if any, of these measures are implemented at their individual event, not Ticketmaster.
While we have no control whether or not these factors will come into play in the future, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s to prep for as many scenarios as possible.A few important things to note: This is still just a potential idea and is not being implemented at this time. Like all safety/entry protocols, it would be up to the discretion of the event organizer to determine if they would like to ask attendees to provide a health verification. If it were to be made possible, all health information would legally have to be stored with a 3rd party health care provider with HIPAA-compliance, not with Ticketmaster. We hope this provides some clarity, and look forward to gathering and celebrating at events together again.
What's more, though the 90% efficacy rate touted by Pfizer is certainly welcome to many, the track record by those making this claim is less than stellar. Pfizer has paid out billions in health care fraud fines and in fact was party to the largest health care fraud settlement in US history.
The pharmaceutical giant paid out $2.3 billion in 2009 to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products
"Pfizer violated the law over an extensive time period. Furthermore, at the very same time Pfizer was in our office negotiating and resolving the allegations of criminal conduct by its then newly acquired subsidiary, Warner-Lambert, Pfizer was itself in its other operations violating those very same laws," Mike Loucks, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts said at the time.
But that was only a single case, this company has a track record dating back decades that includes everything from bribing government officials to illegally testing products on children to making false claims about drugs and illegally marketing them — leading to multiple deaths. Despite making the largest payout in history, Pfizer has continued to be called to the carpet since 2009 multiple times for misleading the public about their drugs — up to and including vaccines.
Nevertheless, Americans have short memories and seemingly couldn't care less about the criminal past of a company who is claiming 90% efficacy for a vaccine that was developed and tested in less time than any vaccine in the history of medicine.
Americans would do well to research the last time a vaccine was fast-tracked with limited testing. As the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine wrote in its peer-reviewed paper titled The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to a Growing Vaccine Crisis:
In April 1955 more than 200 000 children in five Western and mid-Western USA states received a polio vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective. Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programme against polio had to be abandoned. Subsequent investigations revealed that the vaccine, manufactured by the California-based family firm of Cutter Laboratories, had caused 40 000 cases of polio, leaving 200 children with varying degrees of paralysis and killing 10.
While a vaccine for COVID-19 would certainly be welcomed by many, the idea of rushing this in depth process which normally takes years or decades to complete, could prove to be utterly catastrophic.
"Getting safety issues wrong with a COVID-19 vaccine could set us back for years or even decades," says vaccine expert Richard Malley, MD.
We should probably heed his advice.