Tsai Ing-wen blames Beijing for blocking Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine order

The suspicions of previous months have turned into a direct accusation. Taipei had bought five million doses from BioNTech. So far the island has received 720,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Only 1 per cent of the population has been vaccinated. The German pharmaceutical company has not yet spoken in the matter, whilst China denies any involvement.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen today accused China of blocking Taiwan’s agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Reacting to the news, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said: “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”.

This is the first time that the island's government has explicitly blamed China for its inability to buy five million doses of the vaccine developed by US-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

Back in February, Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung hinted that China was trying to scuttle the deal.

Taiwan had reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech at the end of December. The negotiations had been led by the German company, which dropped out at the last minute.

BioNTech granted China's Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group the right to develop and distribute the vaccine not only in China, but also in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The German company received US$ 85 million to grant the licence, whilst Fosun pledged to buy US$ 50 million worth of BioNTech shares.

Struggling with a new COVID-19 surge, the Tsai administration has managed to vaccinate only 1 per cent of the population.

Taiwan has on order 14.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine five million of the US-based Moderna but has received only 720,000so far. By the end of July, a locally produced anti-COVID vaccine should also be available.

BioNTech has not yet commented on Taiwan’s allegations. For its part, China has denied blocking the purchase.

Chinese authorities claim instead that they offered Taiwan the US-German vaccine, but Tsai's government rejected the gesture of goodwill for political reasons.

Mainland China considers Taiwan a rebel province, and has never ruled out the use of force to take it.

The island has been de facto independent since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists (Kuomintang) fled the mainland after losing the civil war with the Communists. Since then, it has claimed to represent the Republic of China founded in 1912.