A major Taiwanese Buddhist group has signed a deal to procure five million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
The deal was announced by the Tzu Chi Foundation on Wednesday.
“All the purchased vaccines will be donated to the competent authority for use by the public,” the group said in a statement posted to its Facebook account.
The deal was reached with a Hong Kong subsidiary of the Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, trading as Fosun Pharma, according to the foundation. It has exclusive rights to distribute the shot in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao. The shot cannot be sold by Pfizer to Taiwan directly.
While Fosun Pharma has remained silent about the agreement so far, the deal was confirmed by BioNTech in an emailed statement to Reuters.
The donation follows the combined 10-million-shot purchase by two major Taiwanese tech firms announced earlier this month, bringing the total number of Pfizer shots expected to be received by Taiwan to 15 million.
Taiwan’s Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng expressed the government’s gratitude to Tzu Chi, and said the 15-million-dose order would arrive in batches, though no timeframe was specified.
Taiwan has fared extremely well in the pandemic.
It experienced a spike in cases several weeks ago, but the authorities managed to quickly regain control. Currently, the island’s tally of infections stands at around 15,500, with 773 deaths.
Taiwan has embarked on a massive vaccination drive, ordering millions of doses from various manufacturers. However, only some 20% of the nation’s 23.5 million population have so far received at least one jab.
Taipei has declined China’s offer to ship in its own vaccines.
On Monday, the island’s health authority approved for emergency use a domestically manufactured shot produced by the Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp.
No final-phase trial data has been made available for the shot as yet, but Taiwan’s health ministry described the Medigen vaccine as “no worse” than those created by AstraZeneca, which are widely used on the island.