The government and legislators across party lines expressed their appreciation after the Lithuanian government pledged to donate 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis on Tuesday announced on Twitter that the Lithuanian government had approved the donation.
Citing the Lithuanian Ministry of Health, a Reuters report said that the pledge was made in response to a request on Tuesday last week for help by Taipei’s mission in neighboring Latvia.
The vaccines are to be delivered in September.
In a Facebook post, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) thanked Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and her government for the donation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Lithuania’s pledge as a “demonstration of friendship through concrete action,” adding that the Baltic nation is the first EU member state to help Taiwan with its vaccine needs.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) also issued a statement on Tuesday thanking Vilnius for the donation, saying it “embodies the friendly reciprocity between Taiwan and Lithuania.”
However, one KMT lawmaker criticized it as another example of Taiwan being a “vaccine beggar.”
The phrase was first used by KMT Taipei City Councilor Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), who said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has become a “vaccine beggar,” as it has to rely on the US and Japan for donations after failing to procure enough COVID-19 vaccines.
KMT Legislator Lee De-wei (李德維) yesterday repeated the phrase, writing on Facebook: “So here I want to thank Lithuania for the donation... But it also highlights Taiwan’s ‘vaccine beggar’ predicament, because we have to beg for them.”
Rebuking the insinuation, DPP spokeswoman Yen Juo-fang (顏若芳) said: “It is very common to assist other countries in the international community by sending materials. Taiwan had made generous donations of masks and medical supplies when the pandemic was severe in other countries.”
“Lo and other KMT members making these insulting comments not only shows disrespect for our international friends lending us a helping hand, but also impedes Taiwan’s efforts to obtain more vaccines,” she added.
The criticism has also drawn accusations from some DPP members that the KMT is acting in collusion with Beijing by repeating its propaganda of belittling Taiwan.
In other developments, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation yesterday said it plans to buy 5 million doses of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, joining Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co in trying to secure vaccines for the nation.
The foundation said that after “initial progress” had been made in sourcing the shots, it had submitted application documents to the government.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the government had received the documents and was reviewing them. He did not elaborate.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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