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Taiwan 'competing' for early delivery of BNT vaccine: CECC

ROC Central News Agency

08/26/2021 12:52 PM

Taipei, Aug. 26 (CNA) Taiwan's government said late Wednesday that a batch of Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) vaccine doses had become available ahead of schedule and that it was competing with other countries to obtain it, while strongly hinting that it was already a done deal.

In June, Taiwan's government authorized Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and Hon Hai Precision Co.'s YongLin Charity and Education Foundation to represent it in negotiations to purchase BNT jabs, following months of accusations that China was interfering in its own negotiations with the German manufacturer, which Beijing denied.

Last month, the companies announced that they had succeeded in purchasing 10 million of the shots, which were originally scheduled to begin arriving in late September, and would be donated to the government upon delivery.

However, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said in a press release on Wednesday that it had received word from TSMC that a batch of vaccines originally destined for BNT's Greater China Distributor, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., would "leave the factory" in late August.

It said many countries were competing for the vaccines and that if Taiwan didn't get them, they would be sent elsewhere.

While the CECC did not confirm that Taiwan had obtained the shots -- keeping with its practice of not doing so until a shipment is about to arrive -- the rest of the statement suggested that the matter was all but certain.

The CECC noted, for instance, that the BNT vaccine has been approved in Taiwan for young people aged 12-18, and that the start of the school year is just around the corner in September.

It said as long as the batch can be confirmed as a product of the original manufacturer and pass the necessary safety inspections, the government will work to get it quickly distributed, for the peace of mind of parents, teachers and students.

As for the vaccines themselves, the CECC noted that they were originally intended for sale in "another location." For that reason, the vaccine boxes will be labeled "復必泰" (the vaccine's official Chinese brand name) and will contain the Fosun name in Chinese on the vial.

Although this labeling method is not what was stipulated in the contract, the government is willing to accept it in order to ensure the vaccines' early arrival, the statement said.

"As long as the safety and quality of the vaccines can be guaranteed, there can be flexibility on the issue of labeling," the CECC said.

Its statement came after Reuters reported on Wednesday that Taiwan would get the BNT vaccines early due to a delay in the regulatory approval of the shot in China, where the batch was originally destined.

The shipment of more than 1 million doses is expected to arrive in Taiwan between late August and early September, the news wire said, citing an anonymous source.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Liberty Times reported early Thursday that Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) had confirmed that the batch of over 3 million vaccine doses was going to be sent to Turkey, but that Taiwan had managed to secure "most of it."

The report also cited another senior government official as saying that Taiwan would receive nearly 2 million vaccines as early as the end of this month.

As of Tuesday, 9.6 million people in Taiwan had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, equivalent to around 40.9 percent of the country's total population of 23.5 million.

However, only around 800,000 people, or 3 percent, have received a second dose, CECC statistics show.

Taiwan, nonetheless, has managed to quash a second wave of infections that began in mid-May and caused total cases to rise to nearly 16,000, from around 1,200.

On Wednesday, it reported zero domestic cases for the first time in over 100 days.

(By Chiang Hui-chun and Matthew Mazzetta)

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