Taiwan hasn't given up hope of getting BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines

Taiwan has only vaccinated around 1 per cent of its more than 23 million people.
Taiwan has only vaccinated around 1 per cent of its more than 23 million people.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan has not given up hope of eventually getting Covid-19 vaccines from Germany's BioNTech, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Sunday (May 30), a deal that Taipei has blamed China for not being able to complete.

After recording just a handful of daily infections for months, Taiwan is dealing with relatively large numbers of community transmissions, though infection rates are starting to fall.

It has only vaccinated around 1 per cent of its more than 23 million people, but has almost 30 million shots on order, from AstraZeneca, Moderna and two domestic firms.

Taiwan, which is regarded by China as a breakaway province, has blamed Beijing for nixing a deal earlier in 2021 for BioNTech vaccines, which China denies.

Mr Chen told reporters that although talks for that shot had "somewhat hit the rocks", Taiwan "has not completely given up hope" of obtaining them.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group has a contract with BioNTech to sell the vaccines in Greater China, including to Taiwan, but Taiwan's government says it will only deal with Germany's BioNTech directly and does not trust vaccines from China.

Outside of Greater China, BioNTech has partnered with Pfizer.

Mr Chen said that, in late January, the Covax vaccine-sharing scheme for lower-income countries had told Taiwan it could get shots from Pfizer, but Covax informed the government on May 3 that would not be possible.

Taiwan is under its second-highest level of curbs to stop the spread of infections, including limiting personal gatherings and closing entertainment venues.

Mr Chen said the task was to ensure those measures were being properly enforced, adding: "At present there are no plans or intentions for a lockdown." The government has come under fire from opposition parties for delays in testing and reporting positive cases, but Mr Chen said that was now improving.

Taiwan reported 355 domestic Covid-19 cases on Sunday, down from 486 on Saturday. Total daily cases peaked on May 17 and have been falling since Friday.

Taiwan has reported 8,160 infections since the pandemic began, including 110 deaths.