Half of the US population has now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the Memorial Day long weekend, helping to push the rate of new coronavirus infections to its lowest level in a year

More than 166m Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, equivalent to 50.1 per cent of the population, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday showed. The country’s level of fully vaccinated people, at 40.2 per cent, is among the highest in the world, according to the FT’s vaccine tracker.

Vaccination rates have slowed, though. The seven-day average of doses administered dipped below 1.5m on March 23 (the latest day for which CDC data are available). It was the first time since February 22 the rate was below that mark and also represents a more than halving since a peak rate of more than 3.3m doses a day in mid-April.

Even so, the daily rate of coronavirus infections continues to decrease. In the week ended May 27, the US averaged 20,882 new cases a day, according to CDC figures on Friday, which is the the lowest level since June 1 last year. The previous time the US averaged fewer than 20,000 cases a day was March 31, 2020.

Vaccines now represent a crucial element in helping the US avoid a repeat of summer last year, particularly as state economies open up and the CDC has eased its guidance on mask wearing for fully vaccinated people.

The Memorial Day public holiday, which falls on the final Monday of May and is often marked by social gatherings, was regarded by many public health officials last year as the launching pad for a wave of coronavirus infections that hit many sunbelt states hard over the summer.

Anthony Fauci, as a senior member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, had observed that the US struggled to achieve a manageable “baseline” level of infections during late spring. “We plateaued at around 20,000 cases a day before we got in to the resurgence,” he said last July when daily case numbers topped 70,000.

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