Taiwan residents welcome BioNTech-Fosun vaccine despite DPP obstruction
Published: Sep 02, 2021 04:08 PM Updated: Sep 02, 2021 10:15 PM
Photo: Coutesy of Fosun Pharma

Photo: Coutesy of Fosun Pharma

The long-awaited BioNTech-Fosun COVID-19 vaccine reached the island of Taiwan early Thursday, bringing hope to Taiwan residents to build an immunity barrier against COVID-19.

The flight carrying the first 932,000 doses arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on Thursday morning. 

Wu Yifang, chairman and CEO of Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma, said he is happy to see the mRNA vaccine developed by Fosun and BioNtech reach the island and he hopes it will help the island's fight against the epidemic. 

A second batch of about 910,000 doses of the vaccine will be shipped after a week, Fosun Pharma told the Global Times on Thursday.

The arrival of BioNTech-Fosun COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is widely welcomed by people in the island of Taiwan as there is a severe vaccine shortage. Concerns were also raised as at least six deaths were reported relating to locally produced Medigen vaccine on the island.

Since the mRNA vaccine opened for registration on August 28, in three hours, more than 1.97 million have registered for appointments, and the total registration on the first day exceeded 2.83 million. A huge influx of people to the appointment system at one time forced a system breakdown. The newest data showed total appointments reached more than 3.54 million, making it an extremely popular vaccine.

The successful delivery of the vaccine shows that Taiwan leader Tsai Ingwen's obstruction of the purchase has failed, Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority has been facing criticism for obstructing the purchase of vaccines from the mainland-based company and putting her political pursuit above public health.

"In the face of strong public demand for vaccines, Tsai's obstruction is unrealistic and goes against mainstream public opinion," Wang said.

Eventually, a procurement deal to provide 15 million doses to the island was made between Fosun Pharma and several institutions in Taiwan - Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Electronics - as well as Buddhist organization Tzu Chi. 

Photo: Coutesy of Fosun Pharma

Photo: Coutesy of Fosun Pharma

A banner in simplified Chinese with the characters for BioNTech was hung on the freezer of the vaccines when they were loaded on the flight from Luxembourg, but was removed after the vaccines arrived at the Taoyuan airport, media photos show.

The BioNTech-Fosun COVID-19 mRNA vaccine will be prioritized for students aged between 12 and 17 years old on the island and the registration will also be open to people aged 18-22. The inoculation with the BioNTech vaccine should begin in mid-September, said Chen Shih-chung, head of the island's epidemic command and head of health department.

"However, Foxconn founder Terry Gou's proposal to purchase more BNT vaccines seems to have been dashed again by the Taiwan authorities. Taiwan authorities pin their hopes on the US Moderna vaccine, largely because Shanghai-based Fosun gained exclusive rights to distribute BNT's vaccine in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The island desires to rely on the US in many aspects," said Wang.

The further procurement of BNT vaccine to Taiwan may still experience setbacks, as long as the Taiwan authorities' resistance to the mainland's support doesn't change, Wang said.