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COVID-19 hospitalization, mortality and pre-mature mortality by a history of immigration in Ontario, Canada: a population-based cohort study


Background — Immigrants in high-income countries experienced inequities in COVID-19 severe outcomes. We examined hospitalization and death throughout the pandemic, and change during the vaccine era, in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — We conducted a population-based study using linked immigration and health data, following two cohorts for 20 months from January 1, 2020 (pre-vaccine) and September 1, 2021 (vaccine era). We used multivariable Poisson generalized estimating equation regression to estimate adjusted rate ratios (aRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI), accounting for age, sex and co-morbidities. We calculated age-standardized years of life lost (ASYRs) rates by immigrant category.

Findings — Of 11,692,387 community-dwelling adults in the pre-vaccine era cohort and 11,878,304 community-dwelling adults in the vaccine era cohort, 21.6% and 21.4% of adults in each era respectively were immigrants. Females accounted for 57.9% and 57.8% of sponsored family, and 68.4% and 67.6% of economic caregivers, in each era respectively. Compared to other Ontarians in the pre-vaccine era cohort, hospitalization rates were highest for refugees (aRR [95% CI] 3.41 [3.39–3.44]) and caregivers (3.13 [3.07–3.18]), followed by sponsored family and other economic immigrants. Compared to other Ontarians, aRRs were highest for immigrants from Central America (5.00 [4.92–5.09]), parts of South Asia (3.95 [3.89–4.01]) and Jamaica (3.56 [3.51–3.61]) with East Asians having lower aRRs. Mortality aRRs were similar to hospitalization aRRs. In the vaccine era, all aRRs were attenuated and most were similar to or lower than other Ontarians, with refugees and a few regions maintaining higher rates. In the pre-vaccine era ASYRs were higher for all immigrant groups. ASYRs dropped in the vaccine era with only refugees continuing to have higher rates.

Interpretation — Immigrants, particularly refugees, experienced greater premature mortality. aRRs for most immigrant groups dropped substantially after high vaccine coverage was achieved. Vaccine outreach and improvements in the social determinants of health are needed.



Wanigaratne S, Shah B, Stukel TA, Lu H, Den Otter-Moore S, Shetty J, Saunders N, Gandhi S, Guttmann A. Lancet Reg Health Am. 2024; 34:100762. Epub 2024 May 13.

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