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Taiwan signs deals for nearly 20 million doses of COVID vaccines

Taiwan president reassures public that vaccines will be available by 2nd quarter of this year

(Twitter, Tsai Ing-wen image)

(Twitter, Tsai Ing-wen image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — To allay fears that China is interfering with Taiwan's acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced that the country has signed contracts for nearly 20 million vaccine doses.

During a radio interview with Hit FM on Wednesday (Feb. 17), Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that Pfizer's German partner BioNTech had suddenly backed out of a deal to sell five million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, amid apparent pressure from its Chinese partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (上海復星醫藥). However, on Thursday (Feb. 18), BioNTech sent a statement to Taiwan News pledging that it will "supply Taiwan with our vaccine as part of this global commitment."

Later that same day, Tsai made an announcement in Mandarin on Facebook with the heading, "There are vaccines, please don't worry!" She then included a chart listing all the vaccines that Taiwan has already signed agreements to acquire through foreign companies and organizations.

The three vaccines that Taiwan has signed deals for include: 5.05 million doses from Moderna, 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, and 4.76 doses through COVAX, for a total of 19.81 million jabs. In addition, Tsai pointed out that two of Taiwan's domestically developed vaccines have entered Phase II clinical trials.

Tsai noted that in recent days, Taiwan's acquisition of vaccines has aroused discussion. She reiterated the government has made clear progress by adopting a dual-track approach of both purchasing vaccines from multiple external sources and carrying out domestic research and development to ensure that Taiwan has an adequate supply of vaccines.

She said the vaccines that have been acquired from abroad are expected to be available in the second quarter of this year. The president stressed that those most in need, including front-line epidemic prevention medical staff, would be given top priority.

Tsai added that during the pandemic, Taiwan has made important strides in biotechnology and medical technologies. She closed by stating:

"We are confident that our strong research and development capabilities in the biomedical industry will not only protect the health of the Taiwanese people but will also open up global business opportunities for Taiwan. Together, we are committed to the development of vaccines and technological breakthroughs in the biomedical industry!"

One hour later, Tsai posted a tweet in English to announce the deals signed with external sources and the progress made with domestically-developed vaccines. She also emphasized the government and biomedical industry would continue to "make great strides in the fight against the pandemic."