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Taiwan manages to grab BioNTech vaccine 'abandoned' by China

Chinese-labeled BioNTech vaccine could arrive in Taiwan by end of month

Shipment of BioNTech doses with Chinese labeling. 

Shipment of BioNTech doses with Chinese labeling.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday (Aug. 25) revealed the Pfizer–BioNTech (BNT) COVID-19 vaccine will arrive ahead of schedule despite Chinese labeling after Taiwan was able to wrestle away a shipment away from a third country.

Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced the first batch of BioNTech doses is scheduled to arrive in late August, a month earlier than the original delivery date. Chen said that Taiwan will accept the doses despite the fact they are labeled with the name of BioNTech's Chinese partner Fosun Pharma and the shot's official brand name, Comirnaty — both of which the government had expressly stated it did not want to be included on the packaging.

The vials and packaging are printed with the simplified Chinese characters 复必泰 (Comirnaty) and 复星医药 (Fosun Pharma) because the batch had originally been destined for another country. Chen said although the labels are different from the originally agreed-upon parameters, the government will still accept the doses for the sake of expediency, provided they are shipped directly to Taiwan and the quality is confirmed.

He said that after the doses arrive, they will be inspected and sealed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will only be distributed if they meet safety standards.

Alluding to efforts to secure an early batch of the vaccines in Europe, Chen said the government is grateful to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Foxconn’s YongLin Foundation, and the Tzu Chi Foundation for "working so hard during this period in Europe to strive for this early supply of vaccines for the Taiwanese people."

On Wednesday, UDN reported that during his visit to the Czech Republic, Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) realized that European countries were competing for a shipment of the vaccine. He engaged in the bidding process and succeeded in securing a large batch for Taiwan ahead of schedule, with the original labels still intact. According to the report, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million doses will be part of the first wave later this month.

Reuters reported Wednesday that 1 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine will head to Taiwan in late August due to a delay in regulatory approval in China. The report cited a source as saying, "Shanghai Fosun did not manage to get approval, so they gave up their plan for vaccine imports." The source added that Taiwan will be among a number of countries receiving orders "abandoned" by China.

According to the Liberty Times, Turkey was originally to receive 3 million doses of the vaccine rejected by China. However, it cited a high-level official as stating the CECC was able to negotiate for nearly 2 million doses from the batch originally bound for Turkey.

The official said the jabs will likely be delivered to Taiwan sometime between the end of August and early September. The precise shipment date is still pending approval by the European Union, according to the official.

Updated : 2021-09-25 03:55 GMT+08:00