The target is the first China has offered publicly since it began its mass immunization campaign for key groups in mid-December.
China has been slow to vaccinate its people relative to other countries, inoculating only 3.56% of its population of 1.4 billion so far, according to Zhong. Ranked first in the world in terms of percentage of population is Israel, which has vaccinated over 90% of its people. The U.S. has vaccinated about 22% of its population.
“The current vaccination pace is very low due to outbreak control (being) so good in China, but I think the capacity is enough,” said Zhang Wenhong, an infectious diseases expert based in Shanghai who also spoke on the panel.
Even at the rate of vaccinating 10 million people a day, it would take roughly seven months to vaccinate 70% of its population, Zhang noted.
The experts all acknowledged the complex task of vaccinating the world's population, pointing to the slowness in the global rollout of vaccines.
“Demand will outstrip supply for many months, and unless there is more manufacturing, … for years,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They also cautioned against expecting a quick return to normal.
The head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, predicted that life could return to an “approximate normal” in summer next year.
Gao, along with Zhong and other Chinese health experts, urged more U.S.-China cooperation. Gao specifically called on the U.S. and China to cooperate on COVAX, an initiative to distribute vaccines more fairly across the developing world.
“Let’s work together,” he said.