Taiwan’s TSMC and Foxconn said Sunday they are signing a contract with German biotech company (BioNTech) to buy the New Crown vaccine. This is part of a highly politicized process for Taiwan to obtain vaccines.
Taiwan’s government has been trying to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech for months, accusing China of bungling an agreement the two sides were scheduled to sign earlier this year. China has denied the allegations.
Last month, in the face of public pressure over Taiwan’s slow vaccination program, the government agreed to allow Taiwan Foxconn founder Kuo Tai-Ming and TSMC (TSMC) to negotiate on its behalf to donate the vaccine to the Taiwanese government for distribution.
TSMC said in a statement, “There are multiple parties involved. We are in the process of signing the contract. Once it is completed, we will make an announcement.”
Foxconn used almost identical wording in a separate statement, neither of which elaborated.
Both companies are major suppliers to Apple.
A spokeswoman for Kuo said, “We will explain formally to the outside world when we have further information.” She gave no details.
In an interview with reporters Sunday, Executive President Su Tseng-chang also did not reveal further details.
Su said, “Once there is a definite result, we will naturally report it to everyone.”
A source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that contract negotiations were “not 100% complete,” while another source said that while they were close to finalizing the deal, uncertainty remained.
A second source said, “It’s becoming clear that it’s not Taiwan that’s complicating the signing of the contract.” He was referring to the additional “hurdles” set up by Beijing.
Kuo and TSMC reached a preliminary agreement this month with a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. that signed a contract with the biotech company to sell New Crown vaccine in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the sources said.
Both Kuo and TSMC hope to receive 5 million doses of the vaccine.
The biotech vaccine drama dominated Taiwan’s headlines. A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy a vaccine jointly developed by the biotech company and Pfizer (Pfizer).
The Chinese government has repeatedly said that if Taiwan wants a vaccine, it must respect commercial rules and do it through Fosun.
The German government is also involved, saying it has been assisting in direct negotiations between Taiwan and the biotech company.
Taiwan has ordered millions of doses of the vaccine, mainly from AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. while the U.S. and Japan have combined to donate nearly 5 million doses to Taiwan to help speed up its vaccination efforts.
About one-tenth of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two injectable regimens, although the relatively small coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan is now largely under control.