Hospital acquired COVID-19 infections amongst patients before the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, a scoping review

Background Hospital settings are at increased risk of spreading Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections, hence non-pharmaceutical prevention interventions (NPPIs) and prioritized vaccination of healthcare workers and resident patients are critical. The status of COVID-19 hospital acquired infections (HAIs) in low-income settings is unclear. We aimed to identify and summarize the existing evidence on COVID-19 HAIs amongst patients, prior to the rollout of vaccines in countries worldwide. Methods We conducted a scoping review of English peer-reviewed literature in PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus using a combination of selected search terms. Full texts articles presenting results on COVID-19 HAIs in hospitalised patients before the rollout of vaccines in countries worldwide were eligible. Data extracted from eligible articles included estimates of COVID-19 HAIs, country, and type of hospital setting, and was summarized narratively. Quality assessment of included articles was not possible. Results Literature searches generated a total of 5920 articles, and 45 were eligible for analysis. Eligible articles were from Europe, North America, Asia, and Brazil and none were from low-income countries. The proportion of COVID-19 HAIs ranged from 0% when strict NPPIs were applied, to 65% otherwise. The estimates of COVID-19 HAIs did not differ by country but were lower in studies conducted after implementation of NPPIs and in specialized hospital settings for operative surgery. Studies conducted before the implementation of NPPIs or in long-term care and psychiatric wards often reported high estimates of HAI. Although there was no clear trend in general wards, those situated in academic hospitals managed to reduce HAI rates under strict NPPI protocols. Operative surgery settings, unlike psychiatric settings, effectively prevented COVID-19 HAI using tailored NPPIs. Conclusion The available evidence shows a high risk of COVID-19 HAIs, the feasibility of preventing HAIs in different healthcare settings and the importance of appropriately tailored NPPIs. There were no data from low-income settings, therefore, it is unclear whether the reported NPPI approaches could be equally effective elsewhere. We recommend routine monitoring of COVID-19 HAIs in countries with low vaccination coverage, to identify and close gaps in NPPIs and understand gains made from vaccinating healthcare workers and hospitalized patients.