France’s Council of Economic Analysis, a group that advises the government, has produced a report on the impact of the health pass from its introduction on July 12th until the end of 2021 – and its headline finding is that the pass saved almost 4,000 lives.
The French health pass was introduced by the government in the summer of 2021 and its stated purpose was twofold; to stem the spread of the Covid pandemic and increase vaccination rates.
To hold a valid health pass, French citizens must either have proof of full vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the past 24 hours. It is needed to access a wide range of venues such as restaurants, cafés, bars, cinemas, theatres, tourist venues, gyms, leisure centres and to use long-distance trains or visit health centres as a visitor or for non-emergency treatment.
A new study from the Council of Economic Analysis, an independent consortium of economists that advises the French Prime Minister’s office, has shown that the health pass has been a mighty success.
The study refers to health passes as “Covid certificates”.
“We estimate that the announcement of Covid certificates during summer 2021 led to increased vaccine uptake in France of 13.0 percentage points of the total population until the end of the year,” write the authors.
“Further, this averted an additional 3,979 (3,453‐4,298) deaths in France.”
“Notably, the application of Covid certificates substantially reduced the pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) and, in France, averted surpassing the occupancy levels where prior lockdowns were instated.”
To estimate the impact of the health pass, the researchers had to model a “counterfactual” scenario in which the health pass was never introduced.
To do this, they imagined that the rate of vaccination continued at the same rate that it had done prior to the introduction of the health pass – as with any counterfactual, there is no guarantee that the proportional impact of the health pass indicated by this modelling is 100 percent correct.
The authors argue that increased vaccination rates and other positive impacts engendered by the health pass prevented around 32,065 hospitalisations and 3,979 deaths in France.
The claim that vaccination reduces fatality from Covid is backed by the country’s experience of the fifth wave, which has seen record numbers of new infections but a lower fatality rate than during previous waves.
The researchers also estimated that the health pass had positive economic benefits.
In France, they claim that the estimated weekly GDP growth from July to the end of 2021 was 0.6 percent higher with the health pass than it would have been without.
“Covid certificates may spur economic recovery in the short run, as newly vaccinated people can safely resume in‐ person economic activities, including working on‐site and consuming goods as well as services in brick‐and‐mortar businesses (direct effect),” write the authors.
“Furthermore, an indirect effect results from avoiding restrictions, through public health measures, on social, education, and economic activities.”
To calculate the economic impact of the health pass, the researchers used data from the OECD.
The impact of the pass appears to be ongoing. Vaccination rates continue to climb in France where close to 80 percent of people have had at least one dose and the number of people who have received a booster dose is soaring – more than 40 percent of the total population have received a booster dose.
On Saturday, a change to the health pass came into effect mandating that all over 18s had to get a booster dose within seven months of completing their initial cycle of vaccination – or face having their health passes deactivated. This is likely the reason that the booster dose uptake has climbed significantly in recent weeks.
The health pass will soon be transformed into a vaccine pass which means that holding a negative Covid test result will no longer serve as a condition for holding an active pass. This will probably drive the vaccination rate further.