Taiwan’s Foxconn and TSMC, tech majors and major suppliers of Apple, have agreed to buy 10 million doses of Germany’s BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine for around $350 million on their country’s behalf.
BioNTech’s Chinese sales agent Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd revealed that an agreement had been signed, but as yet, no date has been fixed for the delivery timeframe.
Taiwan, which has been trying to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech for months, has been unable to do so, allegedly due to Chinese interference. China denies the accusations.
Under public pressure for failure to ink a deal and hasten the inoculation process, the government agreed to allow Foxconn’s founder Terry Gou and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines.
Gou confirmed the purchase on his Facebook page and wrote that he was “gratified” the deal had been completed. Foxconn and TSMC each will buy 5 million doses to be donated to the government for distribution.”But we can’t relax, because we will continue to work hard to push for the delivery time and quantity,” he said.
“However, this batch of vaccines delivered directly from the German factory I believe will help Taiwanese society to increase confidence and offer respite in the face of the epidemic.”
The vaccines will be given free to the government.
Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said that the government was also looking for vaccine purchases and was in talks to buy 15 million “next generation” Moderna Inc shots for next year.
The virus outbreak has been restricted to a few hundreds in Taiwan, but its vaccine program has lagged behind. Only about a tenth of its 23.5 million people has received at least one of a two-shot regime. With these new orders, 40 percent of the population will be covered.
TSMC and Foxconn said in a joint statement the first BioNTech vaccines were not expected to arrive until late September at the earliest. It is not clear how many vaccines will be arriving in the first shipment.
Gou said Beijing did not interfere in the talks. “During the negotiation period after my donation was proposed, there was no guidance or interference from the Beijing authorities in the mainland on the vaccine procurement process,” he said.
For both Foxconn and TSMC, it is a good deal to attain brownie points for themselves and help keep the virus at bay. Being the major suppliers of chips worldwide, getting a majority of the workforce inoculated works in their favour too.
BioNTech has also confirmed the deal, but it has referred to Taiwan as the “Taiwan region” to not upset China, which considers Taiwan to be its territory.
BioNTech’s Chinese agent Fosun deleted a statement from its WeChat account which quoted BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin as saying the company was glad to be able to supply the vaccine to Taiwan.
Taiwan has ordered vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna, while the United States and Japan have donated almost five million doses to the island to help speed up vaccinations. A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy shots.
With both US and Japan chipping in with vaccination help, China could not challenge Taiwan’s deal with BioNTech as it would harm its global image.