What We’re Reading: Fall in US COVID-19 Deaths; Permissible Air Pollution Levels Increase Mortality Risk; Moderna Production Challenges

New data show a decrease in COVID-19 deaths in the United States; long-term exposure to low levels of air pollution increases mortality risk; Moderna pressured to ramp up vaccine production.

COVID-19 Deaths Decrease in US

Following declines in COVID-19 cases reported in the United States over the past several weeks, national data now show deaths have followed suit and are on the decline, Axios reports. The country is reporting around 102,000 cases per day, marking a 22% decline over the past 2 weeks, and the virus is taking the lives of around 1800 Americans per day—a decrease by a nationwide average of about 13%. Despite the drop in numbers, unvaccinated individuals in heavily unvaccinated areas remain at risk and the virus’ death toll continues to be about equivalent to the that of 9/11 every 2 days.

Low Levels of Air Pollution Can Increase Mortality Risk

A new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health revealed that long-term exposure to permissible levels of air pollution increases the risk of mortality, particularly among individuals living in areas of low socioeconomic status. Researchers sought to determine whether existing US Environmental Protection Agency standards were sufficient in protecting health with regard to 3 air pollutants: particulate matter less than 2.5 mcg/m3 in diameter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and summer ozone (O3). Data were gleaned from Medicare enrollees participating in the program from 2000 to 2016. Findings translated to tens of thousands of additional deaths per year per unit difference in exposure, authors said.

Moderna Pushed to Increase Vaccine Production

Moderna is resisting pressure from the Biden administration to ramp up global donations of its COVID-19 vaccine in 2022, according to Politico. The company has agreed to supply 500 million doses to low- and middle-income countries as part of the COVAX program and agreed to donate 34 million doses this year. Moderna also recently announced it would open a vaccine production site in Africa to produce up to 500 million doses of the COVID-19 shot each year. However, STAT News reports the COVAX program is failing on its promise to deliver vaccines to these nations, and many are left in the dark about when deliveries will arrive.