TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) revealed Thursday (May 27) that a contract to purchase vaccines from BioNTech SE came to an abrupt end after the German company insisted Taiwan remove "country" from the press release announcing the agreement.
During a press conference on Thursday, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) revealed details of the negotiations for the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. He said that Taiwan had been negotiating with the German biotechnology company since Aug. 20 of last year.
Chen said negotiations on a contract had reached the final stages in December. On Dec. 31, a final version was drafted, according to Chen.
The CECC head said that on Jan. 6 of this year, the contract was approved by the Cabinet, and a scanned version was signed and submitted via email to BioNTech. He said the receipt of the signed copies was confirmed by both parties.
On Jan. 7, the two parties exchanged views on the contents of the press release that was to announce the signing of the contract. Chen said the CECC then submitted a draft of its planned press release to BioNTech representatives.
He said that on Jan. 8, the CECC made some adjustments to the draft based on input from BNT, adding that the company had no objections to the new draft and that he had believed negotiations were complete.
However, four hours later, he said that BioNTech "strongly recommended" that the CECC remove the words "our country" (我國) from the Chinese version of the press release. Therefore, the center changed "our country" to "Taiwan" in the version drafted on Jan. 9, according to Chen.
He said that on Jan. 15, BioNTech informed the center that there was a "reassessment of vaccine supply, that the timeline for signing the contract would be adjusted, and that it would need to be postponed for several weeks." Referring to the endless delays since then, an exasperated Chen added, "Everyone knows what happened after that."
Chen emphasized that he believes there was no problem with the contract but that "the problem came from outside of the contract."