China beats Taiwan to the punch in announcing new Covid-19 vaccine delivery

BEIJING/TAIPEI (REUTERS) – China beat Taiwan to the punch on Wednesday (Sept 1) in announcing the delivery timetable for a highly politicised order of Covid-19 vaccines from BioNTech, saying the first 932,000 shots would arrive on the Chinese-claimed island on Thursday.

Taiwan has blamed China for blocking an original order from the German firm earlier this year – charges Beijing has angrily denied.

Taiwan’s government subsequently allowed major Apple supplier Foxconn – formally Hon Hai Precision Industry – as well as its high-profile billionaire founder Terry Gou, along with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccine.

A US$350 million (S$470 million) deal for 10 million doses was signed in July.

They will be donated to the government for distribution.

In a brief report shortly before Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung begun his daily news briefing in Taipei, China’s official Xinhua news agency said the vaccines would leave Luxembourg on Wednesday and were expected to arrive in Taiwan on Thursday morning.

It noted the vaccines were being provided by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical, which has the right to sell the shots on BioNTech’s behalf in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. A second delivery of around 910,000 doses would arrive next week, Xinhua added. The vaccines are made in Germany and are coming from there.

Taiwan is getting the shots, jointly developed with Pfizer, earlier than expected, as a delay in regulatory approval of the shot for use in mainland China made a surplus available for the island. The vaccine is approved for use in Chinese-run Hong Kong and Macau.

While a relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is well under control in Taiwan, only around 5 per cent of its 23.5 million people are fully vaccinated, though the government has millions of vaccines on order.

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