17 April 2020


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


Executive Summary

  • 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.