Foxconn's Terry Gou targets 9 million BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines for Taiwan this year

The first batch of BioNTech vaccines arrives in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on Sept 2, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan could get up to nine million doses of BioNTech SE's Covid-19 vaccine this year, the founder of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn said on Monday (Sept 6), laying out a delivery timetable for a vaccine order that became heavily politicised.

Taiwan had blamed China for nixing an original order from the German firm this year - charges Beijing has denied.

China views the self-ruled island as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland.

Taiwan's government later allowed major Apple supplier Foxconn - formally Hon Hai Precision Industry Co - as well as its high-profile billionaire founder Terry Gou, along with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, to negotiate on its behalf for the doses.

The first batch of BioNTech shots arrived last week. A Taiwanese Buddhist group has also ordered five million shots, with government approval.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Gou said the second batch of vaccines should arrive before the end of the week, with the third batch coming around the middle of the month.

"Following on, it is estimated 700,000 to 800,000 doses will come as weekly arrivals, so the target of eight million to nine million doses this year will be reached as soon as possible, but we are also working hard to get more to Taiwan this year," he added.

BioNTech declined to comment on future deliveries, but noted the first batch had arrived and Taiwan was working on its distribution plan.

Mr Gou was not able to be at the airport to welcome the first batch as he was in quarantine after returning from a trip to Europe.

He said that "at the moment" there were no plans for him to receive the second batch in person to "avoid dragging in lots of people".

Taiwan is getting the shots, jointly developed with Pfizer, earlier than expected as a delay in regulatory approval of the shot for use in mainland China made a surplus available for the island. The vaccine is approved for use in Chinese-run Hong Kong and Macau.

Taiwan's Covid-19 pandemic is well under control, with a vaccination programme proceeding smoothly, though only around 5 per cent of the population are fully inoculated.

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