TAIPEI – Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Taiwan’s Foxconn, along with TSMC reached initial agreements to each buy 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech SE on Friday, three sources with knowledge of the situation told Reuters. .
The Taiwanese government has been trying for months to buy the injections directly from Germany’s BioNTech and has blamed China, which claims the autonomous island is its own territory, for rejecting an agreement that the two sides were supposed to sign earlier this year. China denies the accusations.
Last month, in the face of public pressure over the slow pace of Taiwan’s inoculation program, the government agreed to allow Gou and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co to negotiate on its behalf the vaccines, which would be donated to the Taiwanese government for distribution.
Gou and TSMC reached agreements with a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell COVID-19 vaccines in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, the sources said.
The deal is not final and will still take some time to close, a source said.
It includes “related legal documents” necessary to finalize the deal, but does not specify a delivery date, as global demand for vaccines continues to outstrip supply, this person said.
The vaccines will be shipped directly to Taiwan from the German manufacturer, the person added.
The Taiwanese government has said that any BioNTech vaccine must “be produced in the original factory with original packaging” and delivered directly to Taiwan.
Fosun did not respond to a request for comment.
Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple Inc, said it continues to “work hard” on the vaccine purchase plan. He did not elaborate.
TSMC said in a brief emailed statement that it was still a work in progress and that “no further information is available at this time.”
BioNTech declined to comment.
Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Saturday that the government was very grateful for the hard work Foxconn and TSMC were doing to receive the vaccines, but that purchasing vaccines was “quite difficult” and the process challenging.
Another source said the German government, which has said it was trying to help Taiwan obtain the BioNTech vaccines, had been trying to speed up the talks.
“The German government does not want to leave the impression that they did not sell vaccines to Taiwan due to Chinese pressure, so it has been pressuring the company to speed up its talks with Taiwan,” the source said, referring to BioNTech. .
The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment immediately.
Both sources said that although global supplies are scarce, Fosun, as the exclusive distributor of the vaccine in China and Taiwan, can ensure a higher priority for the distribution of the vaccine.
Only about 9% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen, a need made more urgent by an increase in domestic infections on the island. although the numbers are still relatively small. (Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and the Taipei newsroom; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and William Mallard)