Taiwan Companies Purchase 10M COVID Vaccines After Political Issues Blocked Government Buy

Two Taiwanese tech companies are donating 10 million BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses to the country, which Taiwan's health minister has suggested was blocked by Beijing from making an earlier purchase of the vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Fosun Pharma, a Chinese company, holds the BioNTech distribution rights for Greater China, which Beijing claims covers Taiwan, the AP said. The two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Electronics, said they purchased the doses through Fosun Pharma and will ship them directly to Taiwan's anti-disease agency from a German factory.

Taiwan has been mostly successful in controlling the pandemic but has faced difficulties in accessing enough vaccines for its population. Hon Hai founder Terry Gou said in a statement that the vaccine donation "will give the people of Taiwan some breathing room and more confidence in facing the pandemic."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Taiwan Vaccines
Two Taiwanese high-tech companies announced a donation Monday of 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech to the island’s government. Above, people wear face masks on July 8 in Taipei, Taiwan, after the COVID-19 alert was raised to Level 3. Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo

Taiwan is excluded from the World Health Organization due to Chinese pressure. It has reported 15,249 cases and 740 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said in a February radio interview that BioNTech called off a sale of 5 million doses at the last minute due to "political pressure," though he didn't mention the Chinese government by name. Chen said he had no evidence of what happened.

Taiwan's government earlier signed contracts to obtain a total of 29 million doses of vaccines from foreign suppliers for its 14 million people. But due to supply delays and global shortages, it had only 700,000 on hand when case numbers surged in May.

Beijing offered to donate Chinese-made vaccines, but President Tsai Ing-wen's government rejected that as a political ploy.

Taiwan received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. government in June and 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Japanese government this month. The island also bought 626,000 doses from AstraZeneca directly.

Taiwan Manufacturer
Medical staffers work in a lab at COVID-19 vaccine maker Medigen Vaccine Biologics on June 17 in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images