The United States on Monday crossed the grim milestone of 600 000 COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, as slowing vaccination rates threaten the Biden administration target of having 70% of US adults receive at least one shot and 160 million fully inoculated by July 4.

The early success of the US vaccine rollout has had a huge impact on the pace of COVID-19 fatalities in the country.

It took 113 days to go from 500 000 total US COVID-19 deaths to 600 000 – the second slowest 100 000-death jump since the pandemic began. The nation went from 400 000 to 500 000 deaths in just 35 days.

“My heart goes out to those who’ve lost a loved one. We have more work to do to beat this virus and now’s not the time to let our guard down,” said President Joe Biden on the sidelines of NATO meetings in Brussels, Belgium, urging people to get vaccinated.

The US seven-day COVID-19 death average has fallen by almost 90% from its peak in January. The country reported 18 587 coronavirus-related deaths in May, about 81% less than in January, Reuters data showed.

While the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to places like Brazil and India in recent months, the US remains the hardest-hit nation in terms of cumulative deaths.

But the country has so far vaccinated 166 million adults with at least one dose, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although the rate of shots administered has dropped significantly from a mid-April peak.

The average seven-day COVID-19 hospitalization number has also plummeted since April due to vaccinations. On June 2, total hospitalized patients fell below 20 000 for the first time since June 24, 2020.

However, hospitalization among teenagers has increased as more easily transmitted virus variants began to spread, according to recent CDC data.