Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Taiwan Buddhist group joins fight to find vaccines other than China’s

Taipei is under pressure domestically to get vaccines faster, and organisations and companies have been stepping up to try to help.

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A major Taiwanese Buddhist group said on Wednesday that it is hoping to buy five million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine.

It joins chip manufacturers Foxconn and TSMC in trying to secure vaccines for the island direct from the manufacturers, Reuters reports.

Taiwan’s government has millions of vaccines on order but has been hampered by global supply shortages.

Taipei is trying to speed up the arrival of the vaccines on order as it deals with a rise in domestic cases, although infections remain comparatively low.

Only around 6% of the island’s 23.5 million people have received at least one virus shot.

President Tsai Ing-wen is under pressure domestically to get vaccines faster, and organisations have been stepping up to try to help.

The Tzu Chi Foundation said that after “initial progress” had been made in sourcing the shots, it has submitted application documents to the government to be allowed to buy five million BioNTech doses.

Taiwan’s government said last week it would allow Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple chip supplier Foxconn, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing to negotiate on its behalf for Covid-19 vaccines.

Each wants to buy five million BioNTech doses to donate to the government.

However, BioNTech told Gou it would only sell to governments and not companies.

Taiwan’s own deal with BioNTech fell through this year, with the government blaming it on pressure from Beijing.

Beijing denied the accusation, saying Taiwan was free to obtain the vaccines through Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell the vaccines in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Another Taiwanese group, the Buddha Light International Association, had proposed importing up to 500,000 shots of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, but the company said it was only negotiating with government bodies and supranational organisations like the European Commission for vaccine purchases.

Japan and the US have recently donated a combined 3.74 million doses to the island.

At the weekend, Taiwan reacted with an outpouring of thanks to the US for shipping 2.5 million Moderna doses, more than doubling its stock.

Washington initially had promised to donate 750,000 doses but increased that number as President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world.

The president tweeted she was touched by the US move.

“Thank you to the US for this moving gesture of friendship. These vaccines will go a long way toward keeping Taiwan safe & healthy.”

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