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South Korean mayor ensnared in vaccine scam as Taiwan cities push for autonomy on deals

Controversy comes as Tsai administration faces calls to let local governments procure vaccine doses themselves

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Frozen vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are taken out to thaw at the MontLegia CHC hospital in Liege, Belgium.

Frozen vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are taken out to thaw at the MontLegia CHC hospital in Liege, Belgium. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Korean city of Daegu hit international headlines after Mayor Kwon Young-jin apologized for his role in a proposed deal for 30 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses that turned out to be a fraud.

An association of medical institutions in the city had held discussions with a foreign company seeking to broker the deal. However, the credibility of the agreement was called into question, as Pfizer does not authorize third parties for vaccine distribution, and the hoax has escalated into a political uproar.

The mayor later apologized for being reckless in securing the doses, expressing regret that the move had resulted in “Daegu’s image being tarnished and its citizens hurt,” reported Yonhap News Agency.

An advisor to South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare said in a Facebook post that the address of the dubious company is listed as being in Florida and that its contact number had been traced to Portugal, wrote UDN.

The Moon Jae-in administration has been criticized for the relatively slow rollout of vaccines in South Korea compared to other developed economies. A total of 11.52 million doses had been administered as of Tuesday (June 8), representing a full vaccination rate of 4.54 percent of the population, according to a COVID-19 Dashboard.

The controversy comes as the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration in Taiwan is under attack for the nation's stalled inoculation program, due to an acute shortage of vaccines, amid the recent surge in local infections. The health authorities have stressed that any plans by local governments or private organizations to import COVID vaccines will not be greenlit without authorization from vaccine makers to ensure the authenticity of the doses.


Updated : 2021-06-20 19:03 GMT+08:00