The effect of eye protection to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in the real-world remains uncertain. We aimed to synthesize all available research on the potential impact of eye protection on transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
We searched PROSPERO, PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Library for clinical trials and comparative observational studies in CENTRAL, and Europe PMC for pre-prints. We included studies that reported sufficient data to estimate the effect of any form of eye protection including face shields and variants, goggles, and glasses, on subsequent confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2.
We screened 898 articles and included 6 reports of 5 observational studies from 4 countries (USA, India, Columbia, and United Kingdom) that tested face shields, goggles, and wraparound eyewear on 7567 healthcare workers. The three before-and-after and one retrospective cohort studies showed statistically significant and substantial reductions in SARS-CoV-2 infections favouring eye protection with odds ratios ranging from 0.04 to 0.6, corresponding to relative risk reductions of 96% to 40%. These reductions were not explained by changes in the community rates. However, the one case–control study reported odds ratio favouring no eye protection (OR 1.7, 95% CI 0.99, 3.0). The high heterogeneity between studies precluded any meaningful meta-analysis. None of the studies adjusted for potential confounders such as other protective behaviours, thus increasing the risk of bias, and decreasing the certainty of evidence to very low.
Current studies suggest that eye protection may play a role in prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers. However, robust comparative trials are needed to clearly determine effectiveness of eye protections and wearability issues in both healthcare and general populations.