In-person medical conferences are again in full swing this yr, and members of the oncology neighborhood are weighing the dangers and advantages of attending these occasions within the COVID-19 period.
Organizers of oncology conferences have required that attendees present proof of vaccination and/or a damaging COVID-19 take a look at earlier than the assembly, however most haven’t mandated face masks or required common COVID-19 testing onsite.1-4
Attendees who take a look at constructive for SARS-CoV-2 are instructed to isolate and both inform contacts themselves or inform the organizers of a constructive take a look at, however there aren’t any programs in place to make sure these steps are taken.
This lack of security measures and the rise of COVID-19 circumstances in some areas have prompted some members of the oncology neighborhood to stay with digital convention attendance this yr, deeming it the one protected possibility proper now.5,6
Others have determined that in-person convention attendance is price it, as they consider the general threat of getting COVID-19 to be low. The precise threat of getting COVID-19 at a convention stays unknown. There have been reviews of attendees testing constructive for SARS-CoV-2 throughout or after oncology conferences, but it surely has been troublesome to quantify transmission, as there aren’t any formal monitoring programs.
Lack of Masks
A key issue influencing selections about in-person convention attendance is insurance policies on masking, and the shortage of masks mandates at oncology conferences has been a problem for some attendees.7
Neither the American Affiliation for Most cancers Analysis (AACR) nor the American Society of Medical Oncology (ASCO) required masks at their annual conferences this yr.3,4 Masks sporting was “beneficial” or “anticipated” however not mandated or enforced at both convention.
Manali Patel, MD, was considered one of many attendees who spoke out in regards to the lack of a masks mandate on the ASCO Annual Assembly.7 As soon as on the convention, she discovered that many people weren’t sporting masks. Different attendees reported similar experiences, and looking out the convention hashtag, #ASCO22, on Instagram reveals many mask-free faces.
“It was actually onerous for me the primary day once I walked round and noticed so many individuals unmasked,” stated Dr Patel, an assistant professor at Stanford Drugs and an oncologist on the VA Palo Alto Well being Care System in California.
“If we need to get out of this pandemic, we’ve got to steer by instance, and if something, we’re those that know and see first-hand the struggling this pandemic has induced for our sufferers, each other, and our communities,” she added.
Dr Patel stated she did every part she may to restrict her probabilities of getting COVID-19 on the convention. She double-masked with N95 and surgical masks all through the assembly, together with when she was presenting, examined every day, and averted occasions the place folks have been unmasked and consuming. Dr Patel continued to masks when she returned dwelling, obtained a damaging PCR take a look at earlier than returning to the clinic after the convention, and continued to check for five days after touring.
Regardless of these precautions, Dr Patel stated she was anxious all through the convention, realizing that she could be returning to the clinic to deal with weak sufferers.
Not Well worth the Threat: Defending Your self and Sufferers
Some oncology professionals are deciding that in-person convention attendance just isn’t definitely worth the threat to themselves, their neighborhood, or their sufferers, significantly when digital attendance is an possibility.
Amy C. Moore, PhD, vice chairman of worldwide engagement and affected person partnerships on the LUNGevity Basis, is a skilled virologist and has been main her group’s COVID-19 response. Dr Moore stated her group decided not to attend the ASCO Annual Assembly in particular person as a result of surging COVID-19 circumstances throughout a lot of the USA and the shortage of a masks mandate for attendees.
Waiting for the World Convention on Lung Most cancers (WCLC) in August and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in September, Dr Moore stated she just isn’t planning to attend these conferences in particular person both.
“I query the logic of this seeming rush again to in-person conferences. Sure, we’ve got vaccines which can be nice at stopping extreme infections and loss of life, however we all know that they have been by no means meant or actually supposed to dam transmission,” Dr Moore stated. “For myself and organizations like ours which can be affected person going through we actually must weigh the worth add of being in particular person. Is it one thing that we will’t do by way of hybrid occasions?”
This text initially appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor