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Senior Taiwanese Health Official Accuses China of Blocking Taiwan Vaccine Procurement

Published: June 1, 2021
A medical staff prepares a vaccine against Covid-19 coronavirus at the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City on March 22, 2021. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP) (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Senior Taiwan public health official, Dr. Twu Shiing-jer, has spoken out claiming the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is blocking the small island country from procuring enough COVID-19 vaccines, reports The Epoch Times.

Twu is the chairman of Taiwan’s Development Center for Biotechnology, a former health minister for Taiwan, and the former director-general for Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC). He alleges that a deal between Taiwan and Germany’s BioNTech went sour when the language surrounding the contract was contested.

BioNTech reportedly took issue with Taiwan’s use of the word “country” in a drafted press release, which would have announced the deal. Twu stated, “As for Germany’s BioNTech, we were close to completing the contract with the original German plant, but because of China’s intervention, up to now there’s been no way to complete it.”

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shizhong stated that they had a “final contract” in January, but BioNTech “suddenly sent a letter, saying they strongly recommend us to change the word[s] ‘our country’ in the Chinese version of the press release.”

Despite Taiwan conceding and agreeing to change the wording to “Taiwan,” BioNTech said they would have to delay the deal due to a “revaluation of global vaccine supply and adjusted timelines.” SupChina reported, “Chen said it was clear to him that the contract was finalized, but the ‘problem was something outside of the contract.’”

Previously, Taiwan had no problems securing vaccines from other countries. The country previously received 30-million doses from Moderna and AstraZeneca in the United States and United Kingdom, enough to inoculate 60 percent of Taiwan’s population. Domestically produced vaccines are still undergoing trials.

Chinese firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group (SFPG) has offered to send a Chinese-made vaccine, but Twu refused, stating that Beijing may have “ulterior motives” and that there are “quality concerns” around the Chinese-made vaccines, reported the Epoch Times. Twu said, “Taiwan’s people think about vaccines or controlling the situation scientifically and democratically… we cannot accept the offering of bad vaccines from China.”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen stated on Facebook that one of her government’s three principles for vaccine procurement is to “buy directly from the original manufacturer,” essentially declining SFPG’s offer to provide Chinese-made vaccines because SFPG is a distributor and not a manufacturer. SFPG has been actively promoting its services to Taiwan since 2019.

“We will do everything to safeguard a speedy delivery and offer more vaccines for anyone who wants a jab. The process for domestic-made vaccines is up and running and will provide us sufficient doses,” Tsai said.

Taiwan’s recent spike

The island nation has been largely free of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, but has experienced a recent spike in infections. With a population of nearly 24 million citizens, there have been only 8,842 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 137 deaths to date.

Taiwan’s management of the pandemic has been characterized as “impressive” by the Biden administration, which has considered cancelling a deal to send 20-million vaccine doses. U.S. representative Brent Christensen “suggested Taiwan’s impressive Covid management and relatively low case numbers meant it would not be prioritised over other harder-hit places,” reported The Guardian.

Taiwan was believed to be at high risk for COVID-19 due to its geographical proximity to China and the constant flow of people to and from the mainland. The country’s effective control of the pandemic is largely attributed to its experience managing the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) threat first discovered in southern China in 2002.