TAIPEI, June 1 (Reuters) - Foxconn and its
billionaire founder Terry Gou sought permission from Taiwan's
government on Tuesday to buy COVID-19 vaccines from Germany's
BioNTech SE after the island was hit with a rise in
The proposed purchase of 5 million doses, which would be
distributed among the general population, comes after the
government ceded to pressure from opposition parties to allow
companies, religious groups and local governments to arrange
The Taiwanese government's own deal with BioNTech fell
through earlier this year - a problem Taiwan has blamed on
pressure from Beijing. China has denied the accusation.
BioNTech declined to comment.
Gou, who has retired from the world's largest contract
manufacturer, said on Saturday they hope to airlift the shots
from Germany to Taiwan without going via any middlemen.
Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung expressed his
gratitude to Gou and said the government was reviewing the
After recording just a handful of daily infections for
months, Taiwan is now dealing with relatively large numbers of
It has vaccinated less than 2% of its 23.5 million people,
but has almost 30 million shots on order from AstraZeneca Plc
, Moderna Inc and two domestic firms.
While it welcomes help in obtaining vaccines from companies
and religious groups, Taiwan's government has stipulated that
only it can distribute the shots. Companies and other groups
must also provide letters of authorisation from the original
Gou's office said they had provided all the documentation
the government had requested.
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd has a
contract with BioNTech to sell the vaccines in Greater China,
including to Taiwan, but Taiwan's government says it has and
will only deal with BioNTech in Germany and that it does not
trust vaccines from China.
Fosun did not respond to a request for comment on Foxconn
and Gou's plans.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office, in a statement to Reuters,
reiterated that it was Fosun's commercial right to sell the
BioNTech vaccine to Taiwan and that China's government was
coordinating with "relevant parties" on the island to talk to
Fosun. It gave no details.
Outside of Greater China, BioNTech has partnered with Pfizer
Taiwan's Buddha Light International Association has also
proposed importing up to 500,000 shots of Johnson & Johnson's
Chao Yi, the association's president, said they would be
seeking to get in touch with the U.S. pharma giant this week
after it had previously expressed willingness to sell the group
vaccines. The association is working on the documentation
required by the government.
However, Johnson & Johnson said it was only negotiating with
government bodies and supranational organizations like the
European Commission for vaccine purchases.
"We are not working with or through third parties for
vaccine access during the current emergency pandemic period," it
said in a statement to Reuters.
Taiwan's infection numbers are starting to retreat, but Chen
said the island could not be complacent. Numbers have fallen for
the past six days, with 327 new cases reported on Tuesday.
"We don't have the capital to relax," Chen said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting
by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Chizu Nomiyama)