COVID-19 slows hepatitis elimination

Keith Alcorn
Published:
04 August 2020
Image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.

Hepatitis elimination efforts are being severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in many settings, results of a 32-country survey by the World Hepatitis Alliance show.

The survey of civil society hepatitis organisations and frontline providers, carried out between 30 March and 4 May 2020, sought responses from World Hepatitis Alliance member organisations and stakeholders.

A total of 132 people representing organisations in 32 countries responded. Approximately half of responses came from the United States.

Ninety-four per cent of respondents said that their hepatitis services had been affected by COVID-19. Lack of access to testing facilities was a frequent problem, reported by almost two-thirds. Forty-six per cent said that facilities were closed but two-thirds said that people were avoiding testing facilities due to fear of COVID-19 infection.

Treatment for hepatitis is also being affected, especially outside the United States. Around half of respondents from lower- and middle-income countries reported lack of access to medication since the onset of the pandemic. In India and Nigeria, respondents reported that travel restrictions were preventing people from obtaining medication.

However, avoidance of healthcare facilities due to COVID-19 was also cited by more than half of respondents in lower- and middle-income countries as a reason for lack of access to medication.

Redeployment of services and healthcare staff to fight COVID-19 was cited as another important reason for reductions in testing activity and medication access.

Reference

Wingrove C et al. The impact of COVID-19 on hepatitis elimination. Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 27 July 2020.