With only 9% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people having had at least one Covid jab, the pressure was on Taipai to protect its population – and globally critical tech industries – from the virus
Taiwan’s semiconductor giant TSMC and tech firm boss Terry Gou have secured a deal to buy 5 million doses each of a German Covid vaccine for the virus-hit island.
Gou, the billionaire founder of Taiwan’s Foxconn, along with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, are exclusively reported by Reuters to have reached initial agreements to buy BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine, after being given permission to negotiate the deal on the island government’s behalf.
Taipai says it has been trying for months to buy the shots directly from the German firm but has blamed China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, for scuppering a deal the two sides were due to sign earlier this year. China denies the accusations.
Only around 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 a spike in domestic infections on the island.
Globally, the impact of further Covid spikes could have an impact on already disrupted semiconductor supply lines which has seen auto producers and tech and white goods makers’ output restricted.
Taiwan is the unmatched leader of the global semiconductor industry with TSMC alone accounting for more than 50% of the global market. In 2020, the sector accounted for US$115 billion in output.
Last month, facing public pressure about the slow pace of Taiwan’s inoculation programme, the government agreed to allow Gou and TSMC to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines, which would be donated to Taiwan’s government for distribution.
DEAL NOT FINAL
Gou and TSMC reached the agreements with a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell the Covid-19 vaccines in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the sources said.
The deal is not final and will still take some time to close, one source said. The vaccines will be shipped directly to Taiwan from the German manufacturer, the person added.
Foxconn, a major Apple Inc supplier, said it was continuing to “work hard” on the vaccine purchase plan while TSMC said it was still a work in progress and “no further information is available at this time”.
Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Saturday the government was very thankful for the hard work Foxconn and TSMC were putting into getting the shots but that buying 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 doesn’t want to leave the impression that they didn’t sell vaccines to Taiwan due to the Chinese pressure, so it has been pushing the company to speed up its talks,” the source said, referring to BioNTech.
- Reporting by Reuters