Taiwan Buddhist group to buy 5 million BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines

Taiwan allowed the companies and Tzu Chi to negotiate for the BioNTech vaccine.
Taiwan allowed the companies and Tzu Chi to negotiate for the BioNTech vaccine.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - A major Taiwanese Buddhist group said on Wednesday (July 21) it had signed a deal to buy five million doses of BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine via the German firm's Chinese sales agent, further boosting the island's fight against the pandemic.

The Tzu Chi Foundation said in June it was bidding to get the vaccines, and Taiwan's government said it would allow the group to negotiate on its behalf for the shot. The vaccines will be donated to the government for distribution.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Tzu Chi said it had signed the deal with a Hong Kong subsidiary of Fosun.

"After successfully signing the vaccine procurement contract, all the purchased vaccines will be donated to the competent authority for use by the public," it added, without saying when the vaccines would arrive.

BioNTech said in an emailed statement: “Fosun and BioNTech agreed with Tzu Chi to supply more doses.” It did not elaborate. Fosun did not respond to requests for comment.

The news follows a combined 10 million-dose purchase by two Taiwanese tech firms, TSMC and Foxconn plus Foxconn founder Terry Gou's charity, of the same vaccine earlier in July.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng expressed the government’s thanks to Tzu Chi, saying the 15 million doses would come in batches, though he did not give a timetable.

Taiwan allowed the companies and Tzu Chi to negotiate for the BioNTech vaccine following public pressure that the pace of vaccinations was too slow.

BioNTech developed the vaccine with Pfizer but Pfizer cannot directly sell it to Taiwan as BioNTech signed that right over to Fosun.

Taiwan's government has millions of vaccines on order, while the United States and Japan have donated close to six million doses of the Moderna and AstraZeneca shots.

About 20 per cent of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot vaccine regimen, and the government is ramping up its inoculation programme.

Taiwan has accused China, which claims the democratically government island as its own territory, of blocking a direct order from BioNTech this year. Beijing denies that.