Taiwan is seeking COVID-19 vaccines after a new wave of the novel coronavirus infected hundreds daily in May. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE
June 18 (UPI) -- Taiwan's tech giants have been approved to negotiate for COVID-19 vaccines on the government's behalf after Taipei hit a snag with vaccine acquisition amid pressure from China.
Taiwanese presidential spokesman Chang Tun-han said Friday that Foxconn billionaire Terry Gou and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company will be allowed to secure coronavirus vaccines for the island nation as the country struggles to contain outbreaks in the country.
Gou and TSMC chief Mark Liu met President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss plans. Gou's nonprofit, Yonglin Education Foundation, will be involved in the negotiations, the South China Morning Post reported.
Gou's meeting with Tsai comes after the Taiwanese government and German firm BioNTech could not reach an agreement on vaccines.
Fosun Pharma, based in Shanghai, is BioNTech's distribution partner in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Taiwan's attempt to forge a direct relationship with BioNTech has been rebuffed due to Chinese pressure, the New York Times reported.
As Taiwan explores loopholes in vaccine acquisition, the government said it would continue to hold talks with BioNTech with some participation from the German government.
Some politicians are skeptical that Gou can convince BioNTech to put vaccines up for sale.
"Even if Gou can discuss this with the original manufacturer or an agent, can he get them to sell sufficient vaccines? Honestly, nobody knows," said Taiwan's cabinet spokesman.
Trust in Chinese-manufactured vaccines is low in Taiwan.
Tim Hsu, a software engineer on the island, told the New York Times that he would not trust a Chinese-made vaccine.
But if a Chinese company served as distributor and the "source is still the same widely used vaccine from Germany, then actually that's fine," Hsu said.
Taiwan has reported hundreds of new cases daily after more than a year of close to zero infections. More than 500 people have died from COVID-19 in Taiwan, according to Central News Agency Friday.