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. We combine existing demographic and health data for ethnic groups in Aotearoa 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.
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. There are likely to be significant inequities in the health burden from Covid-19 in Aotearoa 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.
- There is limited evidence as to how Covid-19 infection fatality rates (IFR) may vary by ethnicity. We combine demographic and health data for ethnic groupings in Aotearoa New Zealand with international data on IFR for different age groups to estimate inequities in IFR by ethnicity.
- If age is the dominant factor determining IFR, estimated IFR for Māori is around 50% higher than non-Māori.
- If underlying health conditions are more important than age per se, then estimated IFR for Māori is more than 2.5 times that of New Zealand European, and estimated IFR for Pasifika is almost double that of New Zealand European.
- IFRs for Māori and Pasifika are likely to be increased above these estimates by racism within the healthcare system and other inequities not reflected in official data.
- IFR does not account for differences among ethnicities in Covid-19 incidence, which could be higher in Māori and Pasifika as a result of crowded housing and higher inter-generational contact rates. These factors should be included in future disease incidence modelling.