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‘4,000 lives and €6bn saved by France’s health pass’ claim economists

The use of the Covid health pass had a visible, robust positive effect on vaccination rates, health outcomes and the economy, a new report says

A man shows a woman in a mask a Covid health pass on a smartphone screen

The new report suggests that the use of the health pass in France saved lives, billions of euros, and avoided the need for more severe lockdown measures Pic: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

The use of the health pass in France has saved 4,000 lives and avoided the loss of €6billion since it was brought in on June 9, 2021, a new report has found.

The analysis from le Conseil d’analyse économique (CAE) - a group of renowned economists selected to advise the French prime minister - was published on January 17. (It can be seen in full, in English and French, on the CAE website here).

It concluded: “Covid certificates have had a visible, robust positive effect on vaccination rates, health outcomes, and the economy in France.”

By comparing the real-life situation with a number of modelled scenarios, it found that in France, the health pass boosted vaccination rates to the point where without it, hospital admissions would have been almost a third (31%) higher at the end of 2021.

The report also said that “by increasing vaccine uptake, Covid certificates reduced the number of patients in ICUs and thus contributed to reducing the likelihood of stricter public measures” such as lockdowns.

It also said that in France, the use of the pass avoided the loss of €6billion in the “second semester” of the year. This was much more than the estimated amount saved by comparable anti-Covid measures in Germany (€1.4billion) and Italy (€2.1billion), it said.

The health pass (pass sanitaire) is required in France for access to certain public spaces, such as restaurants, bars, cinemas and sports halls. In some towns, it was also needed for access to certain large shopping centres.

To obtain a valid health pass, you must have had all vaccinations, a negative Covid test, or a certificate proving that you have recently recovered from Covid. 

On Sunday (January 16), the government voted to change the health pass to a vaccine pass (pass vaccinal). This will require full vaccination to be validated.

Read more: France to bring in vaccine passes: What will change and when?

Fears over non-Covid related conditions

Despite the report’s positive findings, some doctors have sought to highlight that apart from health issues caused by the virus, the pandemic has had a negative impact on people suffering from other conditions.

Helène Le Hors, a paediatric surgeon at the Saint-Joseph hospital in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), and president of the surgeon union le Syndicat des Chirurgiens Pédiatres Français (SCPF), told Le Parisien that she was forced to cancel 24 operations for the month of January due to continued Covid pressure.

These included procedures on teenagers, children, and babies; and conditions such as urinary issues, hernias, and genital deformities

She said: “OK, so we’re not talking about cancer here, but we are still talking about pain, inconvenience, the risk of complications, and that’s before we consider the parents’ worries.”

It comes after medical workers and French cancer association La ligue contre le cancer warned that as many as 30,000 new cancer cases in France had in fact likely been missed due to Covid-19. 

In October 2020, it warned that the health crisis had contributed to cancelled tests, delayed diagnoses, changing practitioners, and even suspended treatment; as hospitals redirected resources to help fight Covid-19.

At the time, Dr Axel Kahn, president of La ligue contre le cancer, told news source FranceInfo: “Operations that were not urgent at the time have still not been rescheduled.”

Dr Julien Taieb, head of the Gastrointestinal Oncology department in the Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris, said that some of the delayed treatments in his department were “relatively urgent”, and will have “heavy consequences”, he said.

In December 2020, people living in France were urged not to delay visits to the doctor despite the pandemic, as doing so could delay the diagnosis of serious medical conditions.

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