PurposeTo critically evaluate the potential impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on global ophthalmology and VISION 2020.
DesignPerspective supplemented with epidemiologic insights from available online databases.
MethodsWe extracted data from the Global Vision Database (2017) and Global Burden of Disease Study (2017) to highlight temporal trends in global blindness since 1990, and provide a narrative overview of how COVID-19 may derail progress toward the goals of VISION 2020.
ResultsOver 2 decades of VISION 2020 advocacy and program implementation have culminated in a universal reduction of combined age-standardized prevalence of moderate-to-severe vision impairment (MSVI) across all world regions since 1990. Between 1990 and 2017, low-income countries observed large reductions in the age-standardized prevalence per 100,000 persons of vitamin A deficiency (25,155 to 19,187), undercorrected refractive disorders (2,286 to 2,040), cataract (1,846 to 1,690), onchocerciasis (5,577 to 2,871), trachoma (506 to 159), and leprosy (36 to 26). Despite these reductions, crude projections suggest that more than 700 million persons will experience MSVI or blindness by 2050, principally owing to our growing and ageing global population.
ConclusionsDespite the many resounding successes of VISION 2020, the burden of global blindness and vision impairment is set to reach historic levels in the coming years. The impact of COVID-19, while yet to be fully determined, now threatens the hard-fought gains of global ophthalmology. The postpandemic years will require renewed effort and focus on vision advocacy and expanding eye care services worldwide.