China was accused by Taiwan directly for the first time of blocking a deal of the island with Germany’s BioNTech SE for Covid-19 vaccines further escalating a war of words since Beijing offered the vaccine shots to the island through a Chinese company.
Despite placing orders for millions of vaccines with AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc, Taiwan has so far received only slightly more than 700,000 shots which has resulted in the authorities being able to vaccine only about 1 per cent of the population even as the number of fresh infections of Covid-19 increase in the island.
On previous occasions, the statements from Taiwan of not being able to sign a final contract with BioNTech have essentially implied that it was because of pressure on the company from China.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and frequently pressurizes other countries and companies to curb having relations with the island.
Orders for the AstraZeneca and Moderna shots had been “smoothly” booked, said President Tsai Ing-wen in comments at a meeting of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“As for Germany’s BioNTech, we were close to completing the contract with the original German plant, but because of China’s intervention, up to now there’s been no way to complete it,” she said.
There were no comments available from BioNTech on Tsai’s remarks. The company however said: “we are supportive of global vaccine supply”.
While denying that it had anything to do about blocking Covid-19 vaccines for Taiwan, China has offered ot provide vaccine shots itself to the island as a gesture of goodwill.
It was willing to provide Taiwan with BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, China’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd said.
A deal with BioNTech has been signed by Fosun for exclusively developing and commercializing Covid-19 vaccines that are developed using BioNTech’s mRNA technology for Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
However Taiwan wants to purchase the vaccine only from the original manufacturers or hold discussions with the company on purchases via the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme, Tsai said.
“Only by negotiating with the original manufacturer can you obtain the original manufacturer’s direct guarantee and responsibility for quality and safety, so as to avoid legal and political risks,” she said.
There were no comments available from Fosun on the issue.
Excuses were being held up by Taiwan’s government to prevent vaccines from China reaching the island, Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said. She added that China was “happy to see” Fosun’s willingness to provide shots to Taiwan.
A section of the Taiwan politicians are now urging the government to immediately bring in the Fosun shots because of the tight supplies and the dire need for Covid-19 vaccines.
But the government had not been provided with supporting documentation about the vaccine that was being offered by Fosun, said Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung at a daily news briefing. “Bring out the official documents and we can talk about it again.”
(Adapted from EconomicTimes.com)