02/17/2021, 16.56
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Beijing suspected of blocking Taiwan’s plan to buy the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Taiwan was close to an agreement to buy five million doses. For island’s Health Minister, political interference scuttled the deal. Shanghai Fosun is licenced to distribute the vaccine in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Taiwan has already bought millions of doses from AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwan announced that a deal to buy five million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine fell through because of interference from “outside” sources.

“Maybe someone didn't want Taiwan to be too happy,” said Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung speaking to a local radio, suggesting that perhaps mainland China was responsible for the failure.

Taipei had worked out a deal with Pfizer, a US-based pharmaceutical company, and BioNTech, a German biotech firm. The negotiations with the German firm, which began in the summer, were cancelled at the last moment

BioNTech’s agent in China is Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group whose mandate also includes Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. In return, Shanghai Fosun paid BioNTech US$ 85 million in licensing fees and pledged to invest US million in the German firm.

To date, Taiwan has secured 14.76 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (10 million supplied through a deal with AstraZeneca and the rest through COVAX), and 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by US-based Moderna.

When asked, Chen did not reject the suggestion that Beijing and Shanghai Fosun might have interfered, implying there was a political dimension to the decision.

For its part, Fosun has an interest in defending its licence and protect its financial interests. Chen said that he did not have any dealings with the Chinese company over the vaccine.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province, and has never ruled out retaking it by the use of force. The island is de facto been independent from mainland China since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist forces (Kuomintang) lost the civil war against the Communists, while holding onto the claim to be the rightful heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.

Taiwan is one of the few countries to have contained the coronavirus, a success that has also been reflected in the national economy.

President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly rejected Communist China’s demand to act on Taiwan’s behalf in the fight against the pandemic. For the Taiwanese government, as well as Western nations, Chinese hostility undermines the efforts of the world community against COVID-19.

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