China said on Thursday that it had fully inoculated 1 billion people, a milestone for the world’s most populous country that brings it closer to its goal of vaccinating 80 percent of its population by the end of the year.
It was a significant accomplishment, representing 71 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion. China has administered 2.16 billion doses, nearly triple that of India, which is ranked second for shots given and has doled out 752.7 million doses, according to Our World in Data, which tracks vaccination figures.
More than 200 million people ages 60 and older have been inoculated, while about 95 million children ages 12 to 17 have received shots, according to Lei Zhenglong, a senior official with China’s National Health Commission.
“The total number of doses and the number of people covered by vaccination in our country rank first in the world,” Mr. Lei said at a news briefing on Thursday.
Spooked by multiple Delta outbreaks, China recently expanded access to vaccines. Officials sent health care workers door to door to administer doses and dispatched “vaccination buses” to public spaces. In the countryside, nurses could be seen injecting farmers as they worked in the fields.
The Chinese government has no qualms about pushing a more forceful stance on vaccines. The government changed its messaging in July, telling local officials to shift their approach to targeting all those who “should be vaccinated” from those “willing to be vaccinated.”
In August, the authorities in at least 12 cities in China warned residents that those who refuse Covid-19 vaccinations could be punished if they are found to be responsible for spreading outbreaks. On Aug. 17, several cities in central Hubei Province announced that people who refused to be vaccinated would have that entered into their “personal credit score.” They could be barred from going to work or entering hospitals and train stations.
Although many Chinese people did not rush to get vaccinated earlier this year, that changed with the arrival of the Delta variant. Last month, China stamped out multiple Delta outbreaks that swept across half the country.
But it is now contending with a spike in cases that started in the southern province of Fujian. As of Thursday, there were a total of 201 infections, according to government data.