Counteracting Beijing’s “Vaccine Diplomacy,” U.S. Provides 2.5 Million Doses of Modena Vaccine to Taiwan

The U.S. decided to donate 2.5 million doses of Modena vaccine to Taiwan. Taipei Representative to the U.S. Mei-Chin Hsiao led her colleagues to the airport to personally supervise until the special China Airlines flight took off smoothly. Photo courtesy of Taipei Representative Office in the U.S.

Taiwan is facing increasing political and military pressure from China, a senior U.S. government official told Reuters on June 19 from Washington, D.C. The United States shipped 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan on Saturday, more than triple the amount of vaccine Washington had previously pledged to provide to Taiwan.

The Reuters report said Washington is countering Beijing’s “vaccine diplomacy” to deepen its geopolitical influence. The United States initially pledged to donate 750,000 doses of vaccines to Taiwan, but that number is growing as President Biden moves forward with his pledge.

China considers Taiwan an integral part of its territory and has repeatedly offered to provide coronavirus vaccines to Taiwan, which has been battling a surge in outbreak infections. Taipei has expressed concerns about the safety of the Chinese vaccine.

Senior U.S. government officials said the donated 2.5 million doses of Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) vaccine would be delivered early Saturday on a Taiwan-China Airlines flight that took off from Memphis, Tennessee, and arrived in Taipei on Sunday night. And the timely delivery was made because experts from both sides were able to resolve regulatory issues. Taiwan’s representative to the United States, Ambassador Mei-Chin Hsiao, personally saw the plane off at the airport.

The U.S. official said, “We are not distributing or providing these doses based on political or economic conditions; our sole goal in donating these vaccines is to save lives.”

“There are no strings attached to our vaccines,” the official said, adding that Taiwan “faces unfair challenges in its efforts to obtain vaccines in the global marketplace.

Taiwan’s agreement to buy vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) fell through this year, with the government blaming pressure from Beijing.

China denies the accusation, saying Taiwan is free to obtain the vaccine through Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. which has contracts to sell BioNTech vaccines in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

A senior Biden administration official said, “We believe that China’s attempts to prevent (Taiwan’s) purchase for political purposes should be condemned.”

In fact, Washington has been working with Taipei to create a secure supply chain for strategic products such as computer chips, of which Taiwan is a major producer and vital to U.S. automakers and other industries, the Reuters news agency said.

Jonathan Fritz, a senior State Department official, said Thursday (June 17) that the Chinese Communist Party is very actively using vaccine donations as leverage to prompt more of Taiwan’s diplomatic partners to change their attitudes.

Beijing has been steadily reducing the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, the Biden administration has vowed to strengthen ties with Taiwan, and U.S. law requires that defense be provided to Taiwan.

Earlier this week, Taiwan had reports that the Chinese air force, including fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, had made its largest incursion to date into its air defense identification zone.

The Taipei Representative Office in the United States issued a press release on June 19, sincerely thanking the United States for donating 2.5 million doses of vaccines to Taiwan.

On behalf of the government and people of Taiwan, the Taipei Representative Office in the United States expresses its sincere gratitude to the Biden-Hojny administration for its immediate support and to the United States for its leadership role in the global fight against the epidemic, the press release said.

The press release said that since May of this year, when Taiwan faced an elevated Covid-19 outbreak, the U.S. government, cross-party members of Congress, the business community, the overseas community and other U.S. friends have continuously expressed their concern and offered to help find ways to supply vaccines to Taiwan as soon as possible. As U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and her delegation said during their special visit to Taiwan earlier this month, this is an excellent example of a democratic society helping each other. Taiwan will remember this touching demonstration of mutual support from democratic partners and pledge to continue to work side by side with the United States and global partners to contribute to global health security.

The U.S. decided to donate 2.5 million doses of Modena vaccine to Taiwan, and Taipei Representative to the U.S. Mei-Chin Hsiao led her colleagues to the airport to personally supervise until the special China Airlines flight took off smoothly.