Working paper

The effect of COVID certificates on vaccine uptake, public health, and the economy

An analysis of the incentive effects of COVID certificates on vaccine uptake, health outcomes and the economy.

Publishing date
17 January 2022

This preprint is currently under review and is co-published by Bruegel.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have, among other measures, mandated the use of COVID certificates to prove vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test, and have required individuals to show certificates to access shops, restaurants, and education or workplaces. While arguments for and against COVID certificates have focused on reducing transmission and ethical concerns, the incentive effects of COVID certificates on vaccine uptake, health outcomes and the economy has not yet been investigated. To estimate these effects, we construct counterfactuals based on innovation diffusion theory for France, Germany and Italy. We estimate that the announcement of COVID certificates during summer 2021 led to increased vaccine uptake in France of 13.0 (95% CI 9.7–14.9) percentage points (p.p.) of the total population up to the end of the year, in Germany 6.2 (2.6–6.9) p.p., and in Italy 9.7 (5.4–12.3) p.p. Further, this averted an additional 3,979 (3,453–4,298) deaths in France, 1,133 (-312–1,358) in Germany, and 1,331 (502–1,794) in Italy; and prevented gross domestic product (GDP) losses of €6.0 (5.9–6.1) billion in France, €1.4 (1.3–1.5) billion in Germany, and €2.1 (2.0–2.2) billion in Italy. Notably, the application of COVID certificates substantially reduced the pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) and, in France, prevented occupancy levels being exceeded where prior lockdowns were instated. Varying government communication efforts and restrictions associated with COVID certificates may explain country differences, such as the smaller effect in Germany. Overall, our findings are more sizeable than predicted. This analysis may help inform decisions about when and how to employ COVID certificates to increase vaccine uptake and thus avoid stringent interventions, such as closures, curfews, and lockdowns, with major social and economic consequences.


Recommended citation:
Oliu-Barton, M., B.S.R. Pradelski, N. Woloszko, L. Guetta-Jeanrenaud, P. Aghion, P. Artus, A. Fontanet, P. Martin and G.B. Wolff (2022) ‘The effect of COVID certificates on vaccine uptake, health outcomes and the economy’, Working Paper 01/2022, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Philippe Aghion

    Philippe Aghion, a Non-resident Senior Fellow since September 2006 to 2016, was coordinating Bruegel's research project on higher education.

    He is the Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics at Harvard University, where he started teaching Economics in 2000. Previously, he held positions at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Nuffield College (Oxford), and University College London.

    Philippe's research spans a broad array of fields including corporate finance, industrial organisation, political economy and macroeconomics. He is managing editor of the journal The Economics of Transition, which he launched in 1992.

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff was the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister's Conseil d'Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

  • Philippe Martin

    Philippe Martin is Professor of Economics at Sciences Po in Paris. He currently serves as the head of the Department of Economics at Sciences Po and is a research fellow at the London-based CEPR (Centre for Economic Policy Research). He previously taught at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and the Paris School of Economics. From 2001 to 2002, he served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    Martin's research focuses on international trade and macroeconomics, in addition to economic geography. In 2002, he was awarded the Prix du meilleur jeune économiste de France, a prize awarded yearly to a French economist under forty years of age "who has combined recognized expertise with an active participation to the public debate," along with Thomas Piketty.

    He also works as a columnist for the French daily Libération.

  • Lionel Guetta-Jeanrenaud

    Lionel worked at Bruegel as a Research Assistant until August 2022. He studied economics at the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon, in France. Before joining Bruegel, Lionel worked as a research assistant at the Department of Economics of Harvard University.

    His Master’s thesis investigated the impact of newspaper closures on anti-government sentiment in the United States. In addition to media economics and political economy, his research interests include fiscal policy and the digital economy.

    Lionel is a dual French and American citizen.

  • Bary Pradelski

  • Miquel Oliu-Barton

    Miquel Oliu-Barton is a non-resident fellow at Bruegel. He is also an associate professor of economics at Paris-Dauphine University. 

    Game theorist by training, Miquel has led numerous policy and scientific publications (Lancet, Lancet Global Health, Nature Communications, BMJ) that were cited in leading international media including CNN, Financial Times, New York Times and Le Monde. His work builds on multidisciplinary collaborations between scientists and policy-makers from different countries. At Bruegel, he is part of Europe’s governance team.

    Miquel graduated from the Ecole normale supérieure in mathematics, holds a Ph.D. from Sorbonne University, and was recently a visiting Professor at Yale University. He is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

    Disclosure of external interests

    Declaration of interest 2023

    Declaration of interest 2022

  • Nicolas Woloszko

  • Patrick Artus

  • Arnaud Fontanet

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