COVID-19 in the homeless population: a scoping review and meta-analysis examining differences in prevalence, presentation, vaccine hesitancy and government response in the first year of the pandemic.
Ahillan T., Emmerson M., Swift B., Golamgouse H., Song K., Roxas A., Mendha SB., Avramović E., Rastogi J., Sultan B.
AIMS: People experiencing homelessness (PEH) have been identified as being increasingly susceptible to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with policies enacted to test, isolate, increase hygiene practices and prioritise vaccines among this population. Here, we conduct a scoping review of the current evidence-base pertaining to the prevalence and presentation of COVID-19 in PEH, COVID-vaccine hesitancy rates and government interventions enacted within the first year of the pandemic for PEH. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A systematic search was conducted on Pubmed, Cochrane, Embase and MedRxiv databases for studies reporting primary data on COVID-19 prevalence and clinical characteristics in PEH, vaccine uptake for PEH and policies enacted targeting PEH. Study qualities were assessed with The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's set of Study Quality. RESULTS: Eighty-three studies were included in our final analysis. The overall prevalence of symptomatic COVID-19 infection in PEH is estimated at 35%. The most common symptoms found were cough and shortness of breath, followed by fever. Concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy amongst PEH related to thoroughness of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, side effects and mistrust of the government. The main strategies implemented by governments were mass testing, adaption of healthcare service provision, provision of alternative housing, encouraging personal hygiene (hand sanitation and mask wearing), and inter-organisational communication. DISCUSSION: In our meta-analysis, 35% of PEH with a COVID-19 infection presented symptomatically; the low prevalence of symptomatic COVID-19 infection suggests widespread testing following outbreaks would be beneficial for this group of individuals. Temporary recuperation units and measures for housing stability in the pandemic, namely provision of alternative housing and stopping evictions, were found to be highly effective. High rates of vaccine hesitancy means that education and encouragement towards vaccination would be beneficial for this vulnerable population, where comorbidities are common. Finally increased focus in research should be placed on the mental health burden of COVID-19 and the pandemic on PEH moving forwards.