Germany says it has been helping on Taiwan's BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine deal

Taiwan has vaccinated fewer than 2 per cent of its 23.5 million people, but has millions of shots on order. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Germany's top diplomat in Taipei said his government has been helping in talks between Taiwan and drugmaker BioNTech to supply Covid-19 vaccines, after Taiwan said a deal fell apart earlier this year due to Chinese "intervention".

China denied that accusation. But a war of words escalated after the Chinese-claimed island rejected Beijing's offer to supply it with shots made by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, which holds a contract to sell them in Greater China.

In a Facebook post in Chinese on Wednesday (June 2), Mr Thomas Prinz, Germany's de facto ambassador to Taiwan, said they had "noticed the recent controversy regarding vaccine acquisition".

"Please believe that the German government, especially Federal Economy Minister Altmaier himself, have made great efforts in the continuous communication and coordination between Taiwan and BioNTech," he said, adding that whether a contract is eventually signed would depend on the two parties.

"If the parties to the contract can reach a consensus, the federal government is naturally happy to see it happen."

Germany's BioNTech asked Taiwan to remove the word "country" from their planned joint announcement on a Covid-19 vaccine sale to the island, its health minister said last week.

Mr Prinz noted Germany's donations to the Covax global vaccine sharing scheme for lower income countries, through which Taiwan has already received AstraZeneca shots.

"I hope that there will be enough vaccines from different brands, including BioNTech, imported into Taiwan as soon as possible."

Neither BioNTech or Fosun immediately responded to a request for comment.

Germany, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and only recognises the government in Beijing.

Mr Altmaier wrote to his opposite number in Taiwan in January to ask for help persuading manufacturers in Taiwan, home to the world's largest contract chipmaker and one of Germany's main suppliers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, to ease a global shortage of chips.

Taiwan responded by saying it was asking for Germany's help in securing Covid-19 vaccines.

While Taiwan's government says it has not totally given up on obtaining BioNTech shots, Foxconn and its billionaire founder Terry Gou sought permission from Taiwan's government on Tuesday to buy the vaccines from the firm.

Taiwan vaccinated only around 3 per cent of its 23.5 million people, but has millions of shots on order.

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