Covid-19 vaccines: Beijing blocked Taiwan’s deal with BioNTech, Tsai Ing-wen says
- ‘Taiwan was close to sealing the deal with the German plant, but because of China’s intervention, we still can’t sign the contract,’ island’s president tells ruling party
- German firm says it does not comment on ‘potential or ongoing discussions to provide vaccine doses’
“Taiwan was close to sealing the deal with the German plant, but because of China’s intervention, we still can’t sign the contract,” she told a meeting of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
Taipei had previously “smoothly” ordered shots from AstraZeneca in Britain and Moderna in the United States, she said.
This is the first time Taiwan has directly accused Beijing of blocking a deal with BioNTech.
When asked to comment on the matter, the German firm said: “We generally do not comment on potential or ongoing discussions to provide vaccine doses.”
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group signed a deal with BioNTech last year to supply its mRNA vaccines to mainland China, and in March offered to supply some of those doses to Taiwan. Under the deal, Fosun was given the exclusive rights to develop and commercialise the vaccines in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Taiwan, which is home to about 23 million people, has so far received 700,000 AstraZeneca shots via the Covax Facility, and less than 1 per cent of its population has been vaccinated. It has yet to receive any of the shots it ordered from Moderna.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not comment on Tsai’s claim but said the channels for Taiwan to obtain vaccines from the mainland were “unimpeded”.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said two non-governmental bodies in Shanghai and Jiangsu had agreed to donate a batch of vaccines to Taiwan.
“We support and will assist the donation,” she said, without specifying the manufacturer or how many doses would be supplied. “We hope that relevant parties in Taiwan will clear obstacles for the delivery to take place as soon as possible.”
Zhu also criticised Taiwan for not accepting aid from Beijing.
The WHO has granted emergency approval for a vaccine made by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.
Fosun on Saturday repeated an offer it first made in March to supply Taiwan with BioNTech vaccines. Taipei rejected the initial offer, saying it would discuss the procurement issue directly with the German company.