An analysis of deaths from COVID-19 in New Zealand shows being up to date with your vaccines is the single best way to reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19.
Public Health Agency Deputy Director-General Dr Andrew Old says thanks to lower levels of community transmission early in the pandemic and high vaccination rates, New Zealand has had a lower rate of deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic compared to many countries.
Most people that test positive for COVID-19 will experience a mild to moderate illness and be able to self-care at home before making a full recovery.
‘But sadly, despite that, more than 2000 people have died from COVID-19, either as an underlying or contributing cause, and we remain committed to ensuring those most at risk of death from COVID-19 are prioritised in our response.’
As part of this, Te Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health has examined COVID-19 attributed deaths to better identify greatest risk factors for COVID-19 and help establish how these risks can be reduced.
This analysis is available on the Ministry’s website at COVID-19 Mortality in Aotearoa New Zealand: Inequities in Risk.
The analysis examined 1,797 COVID-19 deaths between 1 January and 26 August 2022, which had been attributed to COVID-19. This included 1,458 people of European or Other ethnicity, 158 Māori, 111 Pacific people, and 60 people of Asian ethnicity.
It supports that, as well as age being a strong risk for death from COVID-19, there is excess risk for Māori and Pacific Peoples, people who are unvaccinated, those in higher deprivation and those with pre-existing health conditions.
The analysis found:
‘This analysis shows that being up to date with your vaccinations not only helps protect yourself and your loved ones from severe disease, but it could save your life.’
However, it also shows the burden of COVID-19 has fallen unevenly across New Zealand.
Some of this excess risk for Māori and Pacific people can be explained by higher rates of socio-economic deprivation, pre-existing conditions, and lower vaccination rates. Inequities in vaccination rates alone accounted for around a quarter of the excess risk for Māori and Pacific peoples. However, even controlling for these factors, the analysis shows Māori and Pacific people are still at a significant higher risk of death from COVID-19.
‘Unfortunately, this does reflect broader long standing health inequities for Māori and Pacific, with poorer health access and outcomes across many measures. It is also similar to COVID-19 experience in many countries, including Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, where already vulnerable communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.’
‘These findings are not unexpected and our COVID-19 response throughout has been informed by understanding that the communities with the poorest health are also the most at risk from COVID-19.
Protecting Māori and Pacific people is an integral part of the ongoing COVID-19 response. The Ministry has always taken a collaborative and comprehensive approach, engaging at multiple levels to support Māori and Pacific communities stay safe. We continue to do this because we recognise the ongoing, intergenerational and inequitable vulnerability of these communities.
Te Manatū Hauora, Te Whatu Ora, and Te Aka Whai Ora will continue to engage with Māori through the National Iwi Chairs Forum, Māori health providers, community groups, and other organisations to inform the overall COVID-19 response, and ensure it promotes equitable outcomes for Māori.
Steps being taken to better protect vulnerable groups as part of the COVID-19 response include: