COVID-19 vaccination is being conducted in over 190 countries/regions to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission and return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. However, understanding when non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) can be lifted as immunity builds up remain a key question for policy makers. To address it, we built a data-driven model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for China. We estimated that to prevent the escalation of local outbreaks to widespread epidemics, stringent NPIs need to remain in place at least one year after the start of vaccination. Should NPIs alone be capable to keep the reproduction number (Rt) around 1.3, the synergetic effect of NPIs and vaccination could reduce up to 99% of COVID-19 burden and bring Rt below the epidemic threshold in about 9 months. Maintaining strict NPIs throughout 2021 is of paramount importance to reduce COVID-19 burden while vaccines are distributed to the population, especially in large populations with little natural immunity.