Taiwan Says Beijing Blocked Deal For BioNTech Jabs

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2021-05-26 HKT 15:50

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  • Tsai Ing-wen says Beijing's intervention has stopped Taiwan getting BioNTech jabs. Photo: AFP

    Tsai Ing-wen says Beijing's intervention has stopped Taiwan getting BioNTech jabs. Photo: AFP

Taipei directly accused Beijing for the first time on Wednesday of blocking a deal with Germany's BioNTech for Covid-19 vaccines.

Taiwan has millions of vaccine doses on order, from AstraZeneca and Moderna, but has received only slightly more than 700,000 to date, and has only been able to vaccinate about 1% of its population as cases surge.

While Taiwan has previously said it had been unable to sign a final contract with BioNTech, it had only implied that pressure from Beijing was to blame.

In comments at a meeting of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, President Tsai Ing-wen said they had "smoothly" booked orders for the AstraZeneca and Moderna shots.

"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," she said.

BioNTech said earlier that it could not comment on potential or ongoing discussions on providing vaccines.

"It goes without saying that it is BioNTech's goal to provide access to our vaccine to as many people worldwide as possible," the company said.

Beijing has repeatedly denied trying to block vaccines for Taiwan and has offered to provide them itself as a gesture of goodwill.

China's Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group said on Saturday that it was willing to provide Taiwan with BioNTech vaccines.

Fosun signed a deal with BioNTech to exclusively develop and commercialise Covid-19 vaccine products developed using BioNTech's mRNA technology in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Beijing has accused Taipei of putting up political obstacles over the vaccine offer. (Reuters)