Background: Mandatory COVID-19 certification (showing vaccination, recent negative test, or proof of recovery) has been introduced in some countries. We aimed to investigate the effect of certification on vaccine uptake.
Methods: We designed a synthetic control model comparing six countries (Denmark, Israel, Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland) that introduced certification (April-August, 2021), with 19 control countries. Using daily data on cases, deaths, vaccinations, and country-specific information, we produced a counterfactual trend estimating what might have happened in similar circumstances if certificates were not introduced. The main outcome was daily COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Findings: COVID-19 certification led to increased vaccinations 20 days before implementation in anticipation, with a lasting effect up to 40 days after. Countries with pre-intervention uptake that was below average had a more pronounced increase in daily vaccinations compared with those where uptake was already average or higher. In France, doses exceeded 55 672 (95% CI 49 668-73 707) vaccines per million population or, in absolute terms, 3 761 440 (3 355 761-4 979 952) doses before mandatory certification and 72 151 (37 940-114 140) per million population after certification (4 874 857 [2 563 396-7 711 769] doses). We found no effect in countries that already had average uptake (Germany), or an unclear effect when certificates were introduced during a period of limited vaccine supply (Denmark). Increase in uptake was highest for people younger than 30 years after the introduction of certification. Access restrictions linked to certain settings (nightclubs and events with >1000 people) were associated with increased uptake in those younger than 20 years. When certification was extended to broader settings, uptake remained high in the youngest group, but increases were also observed in those aged 30-49 years.
Interpretation: Mandatory COVID-19 certification could increase vaccine uptake, but interpretation and transferability of findings need to be considered in the context of pre-existing levels of vaccine uptake and hesitancy, eligibility changes, and the pandemic trajectory.
Funding: Leverhulme Trust and European Research Council.
Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.