Chinese firm says to provide Taiwan with 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses

Taiwan's government has tried for months to buy the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine directly from BioNTech. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - China's Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, the Chinese sales agent for Germany's BioNTech, said on Sunday (July 11) it had signed a deal to provide 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Taiwan.

The company has agreed to provide the vaccines via its Hong Kong subsidiary to Taiwan chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and the charity foundation of Mr Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of contract electronics maker Foxconn.

TSMC and Foxconn had said earlier on Sunday that they are in the middle of the contract signing process to buy Covid-19 vaccines from Germany's BioNTech, part of a drawn out and highly politicised process for Taiwan to access the shot.

Taiwan's government has tried for months to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech and has blamed China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, for nixing a deal the two sides were due to sign earlier this year. China denies the accusations.

Last month, facing public pressure about the slow pace of Taiwan's inoculation programme, the government agreed to allow Mr Gou as well as TSMC to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines, which would be donated to Taiwan's government for distribution.

Both companies are major Apple suppliers.

Mr Gou and TSMC this month reached an initial agreement with a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell the Covid-19 vaccines in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Both Mr Gou and TSMC are seeking five million doses each.

The BioNTech vaccine drama has transfixed Taiwan and dominated headlines.

A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy the shots, which were developed jointly with Pfizer.

China's government has repeatedly said that if Taiwan wants the vaccine, it has to respect commercial rules and do it through Fosun.

Germany's government has also been involved, saying it has been helping in the direct talks between Taiwan and BioNTech.

Taiwan has millions of vaccines on order, mainly from AstraZeneca and Moderna, while the United States and Japan have together donated almost five million doses to the island to help speed up vaccinations.

Around one-tenth of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot regimen, though Taiwan's own relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is now largely under control.

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