TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Between 1.5 to 2 million doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech (BNT) COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Taiwan after the Foxconn founder outmaneuvered European rivals, according to local media reports.
While becoming the first person to receive the domestic COVID-19 vaccine developed by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. (高端疫苗, MVC) on Monday (Aug. 23), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) remarked that a new shipment of vaccines would arrive at the end of August. That could be a reference to the 15 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine purchased by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Foxconn’s YongLin Foundation, and the Tzu Chi Foundation, the first batch of which UDN reports Zuellig Pharma could be delivering to Taiwan as soon as the end of August.
It is estimated that 1.5 to 2 million doses of the BioNTech jab will be delivered to Taiwan by late August. However, this would only come to fruition so long as there is no "political interference" over labeling, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke with the newspaper.
TSMC, YongLin, and Tzu Chi signed a four-party contract with BioNTech for the vaccines on July 12, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare provided Emergency Use Authorization for the jab on Aug. 3. One of the conditions set by Taiwan's government was that the vaccine doses should not contain the labels of BioNTech's Chinese partner Fosun Pharma or the shot's official brand name Comirnaty, necessitating custom labels.
With the relabeling factored in, the first batch of vaccines was estimated to be delivered from Germany to Taiwan on Sept. 18. This would match with reports that the first wave of BioNTech doses would arrive in Taiwan before the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept. 21 of this year.
However, according to the report, the shipment that is set to arrive in August was obtained by Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) and non-governmental organizations. This batch has apparently been diverted from a shipment originally meant for European countries, but will likely be marked with the Comirnaty brand.
It is believed that the doses provided in this first batch will have the same labeling as the jab Gou received in the Czech Republic on Aug. 4. That day, Gou received his first dose of the BioNTech vaccine in a shopping mall in Prague.
A close look at the vial and certificate show that the brand Comirnaty was used, but there is no mention of Fosun as the product is for the European market. Early in the pandemic, in March of 2020, Fosun signed a deal with BioNTech that gave it exclusive rights to sell the vaccine in the "Greater China" market, which it claims includes Taiwan.
During his visit to Europe, Gou realized that European countries were competing for a shipment of the vaccine. He engaged in the bidding process and apparently succeeded in securing a large batch for Taiwan, ahead of schedule, with the original labels still intact.
According to sources among the organizations involved in acquiring the vaccines, half of the 15 million doses should arrive in Taiwan by November. They are reportedly to be shipped to Taiwan in batches of 1.5 to 2 million each month.
It is therefore believed that 1.5 to 2 million doses will be part of the first wave in August.
Gou's wrote on social media about his inoculation with the BioNTech vaccine at a mall in Prague: