WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urged Americans to get COVID-19 shots on Friday, as the country looks likely to miss the White House's goals for vaccination next month.
"Act now, act now," Biden said in remarks at the White House, urging the unvaccinated to talk to their family and friends who have had shots.
Deaths and hospitalizations are going "drastically down in places where people are getting vaccinated," but not other areas, Biden said. "They're actually going up in some places."
At the current pace, the United States seems unlikely to hit Biden's goal of 70 percent of adults receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, the Independence Day holiday. As of Friday, around 65.1 percent of people in the United States had gotten at least one shot, and that mark has increased by less than one percentage point over the past two weeks.
That pace would have to more than double over the next two weeks for the United States to hit the target.
“When you get the vaccine for yourself, that means that you will not possibly pass it on to somebody else in general because you’re unlikely to get COVID," Harris said during a vaccination drive at Atlanta's famed Ebenezer Baptist Church. "Isn’t that an extension of love thy neighbor?" she said, to which several in the audience responded, "Amen!"
The United States has administered 300 million COVID-19 vaccinations in 150 days, a White House official said on Friday ahead of Biden's speech. Biden's government-wide push to accelerate vaccinations was paying off, with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths down to their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, officials said.
The news comes days after the United States marked a grim milestone, surpassing 600,000 COVID-19 deaths.
The U.S. death toll remains the highest in the world, although other countries, including Brazil, Britain and Russia, have higher death rates as a measure of their populations.
A White House fact sheet said the number of COVID-19 deaths has decreased by 90% since Biden took office in January, when more than 3,300 Americans were dying each day, and highlighted big gains in the economy as people return to work.
It said more than 175 million Americans had now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, and 55% of adults were fully vaccinated.
Addressing racial imbalances in vaccination rates remained a huge and continuing concern, the White House said, but pointed to gains there as well. In the past month, it said, people of color had accounted for 54% of nationwide vaccinations, while making up 40% of the U.S. population.
The vice president's visit to a vaccination site at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Friday underscored the importance of faith groups and community-based organizations in accelerating vaccinations and overcoming vaccine hesitancy.
"Church is always a healing place. It’s so appropriate that we’re doing this here," Harris said in remarks at the historic church where civil rights leader the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his father once preached.
"We just need to get the word out. One of the most important ways is friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor ... please help us get the word out," Harris said, according to a pool press report on the visit.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot, Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)