Published online Jul 27, 2021. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v13.i7.781
Peer-review started: February 22, 2021
First decision: May 3, 2021
Revised: May 9, 2021
Accepted: June 23, 2021
Article in press: June 23, 2021
Published online: July 27, 2021
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality since its first case was discovered in December 2019. Since then, multiple countries have witnessed a healthcare system collapse due to the overwhelming demand for COVID-19 care. Drastic measures have been taken globally in order to curb the spread of the virus. However, those measures have led to the disruption of other aspects of healthcare, increasing the burden due to other medical conditions. We have also stepped back in achieving the ambitious goal set in place by World Health Organization to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public threat by 2030. Hepatitis B and C are chronic conditions with a significant worldwide burden, and COVID-19 has resulted in many hepatitis elimination programs slowing or stopping altogether. In this review, we elucidate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the interventions targeted towards the elimination of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus. Some of the salient features that we have covered in this review include hindrance to screening and diagnostic tests, neonatal vaccinations, the transmission dynamics affecting hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus, role of limited awareness, restrictions to treatment accessibility, and disparity in healthcare services. We have highlighted the major issues and provided recommendations in order to tackle those challenges.
Core Tip: There has been a multi-fold impact of the pandemic on viral hepatitis elimination strategies. Due to supply chain disruptions, hepatitis B virus vaccination campaigns have been halted. Increased preference for home deliveries, poor antenatal care, and unavailability of at-birth hepatitis B virus vaccine has increased the risk of vertical transmission. With needle-sharing activities on the rise and closure of harm reduction centers, the spread of blood-borne infections including the hepatitis C virus has risen. Hospitals are either being avoided due to the fear of contracting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or are being converted into coronavirus treatment wards, resulting in poor management of patients.