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Taiwan denies giving part of COVID-19 vaccine purchase to Paraguay

ROC Central News Agency

03/17/2021 05:44 PM

Taipei, March 17(CNA)Taiwan's government on Wednesday denied news reports it has pledged part of the COVID-19 vaccine it ordered from the United States to Paraguay, in an effort to keep the South American ally from switching to China.

During a legislative session, Alexander Yui (俞大㵢), chief of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs at Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said that while Paraguay has sought help from Taiwan in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines, Taipei has not agreed to give the country any of the vaccine it has procured.

Although Taiwan has prevented the spread of the coronavirus domestically, it has been less successful in securing supplies of vaccines compared with some other countries. Of the 30 million doses the country has ordered from abroad, only 117,000 doses have so far been delivered.

Yui was responding to a report in Paraguayan newspaper Ultima Hora on March 10, which said Paraguay is seeking to buy 2 million doses of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine from the United States, which is part of the 40 million doses the U.S. has allotted to Taiwan.

The report said Paraguayan ambassador to the U.S. Manuel María Cáceres has negotiated with AstraZeneca about the matter through Taiwan's representative office in Washington.

"The report was unfounded. The numbers mentioned in the report are also inaccurate," Yui said.

"Taiwan has only ordered 10 million doses of AZ vaccine and Paraguay did not get its vaccine from Taiwan's allocation," he said.

However, Yui did indicate that Taiwan has been helping Paraguay in the procurement of vaccines including providing the funds for such purchases.

At the same legislative session, Taiwan's Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中)clarified that Taiwan has ordered the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. and the amount is 5 million doses.

The AZ vaccine Taiwan obtained did not come from the U.S., he added. Chen also admitted that Taiwan will not be capable of "vaccine diplomacy" until the latter part of the year.

Paraguay is Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in the South American region. According to data from the World Health Organization, the country has recorded 180,014 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, with 3,476 deaths.

Meanwhile, Euclides Acevedo, Paraguay's foreign minister, told local media late-February that the country was seeking to acquire vaccines from China, raising concerns about the potential impact on Taiwan's relations with Paraguay.

Asked about this development, MOFA said in a statement that Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) talked to his counterpart in Paraguay on the phone Tuesday night, and both officials reaffirmed the long-standing friendship between the two countries.

"Wu pledged to work with Paraguay to overcome challenges brought by the pandemic, while Acevedo thanked Taiwan for its donations of protective equipment and its assistance in the acquisition of vaccines," MOFA said.

MOFA said in a separate statement issued Tuesday that it has no comment on Paraguay's negotiations with China on the procurement of vaccines.

(By Chung Yu-chen, Chang Ming-hsuan and Emerson Lim)


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