The German government has zealously helped Taiwan to negotiate with COVID-19 vaccine supplier BioNTech SE, but wrapping up a deal depends on the two signatories, the German Institute Taipei said yesterday, as vaccine procurement disputes continue to roil the nation.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Thursday last week told a news briefing in Taipei that a government deal to acquire 5 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine fell through due to political reasons.
“We have noticed the recent controversy about vaccine acquisition,” German Institute Taipei Director-General Thomas Prinz said in a Chinese-language post on Facebook yesterday.
Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times
“Please trust us — the German government, especially German Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier, expended a great deal of effort to assist continuous negotiations between Taiwan and BioNTech,” Prinz said.
In January, Reuters reported that Altmaier had previously written to his Taiwanese counterpart, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花), about recruiting Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) to find a solution to a global shortage of automotive chips.
“However, whether the [vaccine] contract could be inked and what conditions it contained were not controlled by the [German] government, but depended on the two signatories,” Prinz said.
If the two parties could reach a consensus, the German government would certainly welcome the outcome, he said.
Germany is the second-biggest donor to the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program, which has provided Taiwan with 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, he added.
Prinz said he hoped that Taiwan would receive enough doses of various vaccines, including from BioNTech, and that Taiwanese would continue to line up to be vaccinated even after domestic cases decline, which would leave the nation in a better position than before the recent outbreak.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has been reluctant to acquire vaccine doses through BioNTech’s Chinese representative, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group (上海復星醫藥集團).
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) on Tuesday urged the DPP to stop politicizing vaccine procurement, saying that it is ready to help Taiwan.
“We are highly concerned about the lives, health and welfare of Taiwanese,” TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said in a statement.
BioNTech has authorized Fosun Pharma to be its exclusive distributor in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and China, Ma said.
“We are actively assisting Taiwan in its negotiation with Fosun Pharma,” he added.
The COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp (Sinopharm, 中國醫藥集團) obtained emergency use authorization from the WHO, Ma said.
“We are willing to make arrangements for Taiwanese to administer Chinese vaccines as soon as possible,” he said.
Asked to comment on Japan’s plan to donate doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) on Monday said that Japan cannot even ensure a sufficient vaccine supply for its own people.
Some agencies in Taiwan have said they are willing to accept vaccines donated by China, but the DPP turns a blind eye to China’s good intentions and puts up barriers to Chinese vaccine imports, Wang said.
In Taipei yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that the Chinese foreign ministry and the TAO have been making false statements, trying to sow discord in Taiwanese society and meddle with its vaccine procurement.
The government is doing its best to push vaccine suppliers to deliver ordered doses soon, Ou said, calling on the Chinese government to stop manipulating the issue for political purposes.
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