Estimated inequities in COVID-19 infection fatality rates by ethnicity for Aotearoa New Zealand

N Z Med J. 2020 Sep 4;133(1521):28-39.


Aims: There is limited evidence as to how clinical outcomes of COVID-19 including fatality rates may vary by ethnicity. We aim to estimate inequities in infection fatality rates (IFR) in New Zealand by ethnicity.

Methods: We combine existing demographic and health data for ethnic groups in New Zealand with international data on COVID-19 IFR for different age groups. We adjust age-specific IFRs for differences in unmet healthcare need, and comorbidities by ethnicity. We also adjust for life expectancy reflecting evidence that COVID-19 amplifies the existing mortality risk of different groups.

Results: The IFR for Māori is estimated to be 50% higher than that of non-Māori, and could be even higher depending on the relative contributions of age and underlying health conditions to mortality risk.

Conclusions: There are likely to be significant inequities in the health burden from COVID-19 in New Zealand by ethnicity. These will be exacerbated by racism within the healthcare system and other inequities not reflected in official data. Highest risk communities include those with elderly populations, and Māori and Pacific communities. These factors should be included in future disease incidence and impact modelling.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / ethnology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / mortality
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Expectancy / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data*
  • New Zealand
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / ethnology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Survival Rate
  • Young Adult