Taiwan raises BioNTech vaccine order to 15 million thanks to Buddhist donation

Members of the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation pray during a ceremony to commemorate the birth of Buddha, at Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan, May 12, 2019. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

TAIPEI, July 21 (Reuters) – A major Taiwanese Buddhist group on Wednesday announced that it had signed an agreement to purchase 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) through the Chinese commercial agent of the German company, thus supplanting the command of the island. for the shot up to 15 million doses.

The Tzu Chi Foundation said in June that it was bidding for the vaccines, and the government of Taiwan said it would allow the group to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccine. The vaccines will be given to the government for distribution.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Tzu Chi said he signed the agreement with a Hong Kong subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (600196.SS), which has the right to sell the shot in China, in Hong Kong. , in Macao and Taiwan.

“After successfully signing the vaccine purchase contract, all vaccines purchased will be donated to the appropriate authority for public use,” he said, without specifying when the vaccines would arrive.

BioNTech said in an emailed statement, “Fosun and BioNTech have agreed with Tzu Chi to provide more doses. He did not specify.

Fosun did not respond to requests for comment.

The news follows a combined 10 million dose purchase by two Taiwanese tech companies, TSMC (2330.TW) and Foxconn (2317.TW) as well as the charity of Foxconn founder Terry Gou, of the same vaccine plus early in July, which will also be given to the government. Read more

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng expressed the government’s thanks to Tzu Chi, saying the 15 million doses would come in batches, although he did not give a timeline.

Taiwan allowed the companies and Tzu Chi to negotiate the BioNTech vaccine following public pressure that the pace of vaccinations was too slow.

BioNTech developed the vaccine with Pfizer (PFE.N) but Pfizer cannot sell it directly to Taiwan because BioNTech signed this directly with Fosun.

The government of Taiwan has ordered millions of vaccines, while the United States and Japan have donated nearly 6 million doses of Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) vaccines.

About 20% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot vaccine regimens, and the government is ramping up its vaccination program with a short-lived domestic peak in coronavirus infections now well under control.

Taiwan has accused China, which claims the island to the Democratic government as its own territory, of blocking a direct order from BioNTech this year. Beijing denies it.

Report by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Edmund Blair

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