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China vaccine wins WHO nod as Foxconn’s Gou pledges Taiwan jabs
A soldier in a protective suit disinfects a closed seafood restaurant following the recent surge of Covid-19 infections in Taipei on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters.

WHO listing paves way for countries to approve and import CoronaVac for distribution quickly, as Terry Gou moves to hasten deliveries to Taipei

The World Health Organization on Tuesday approved the Chinese-made Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use as Foxconn founder Terry Gou pledged to buy the BioNTech/Pfizer jab for distribution in Taiwan.

The UN health agency signed off on the Beijing-based firm Sinovac’s two-dose vaccine CoronaVac, which is already being deployed in several countries around the world.

“The world desperately needs multiple Covid-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant-director general for access to health products, said.

WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) is a prerequisite for the global COVAX Facility vaccine supply and international procurement. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer vaccines.

GIVING ASSURANCE

The WHO said the EUL gives countries, funders, procuring agencies and communities assurance that the vaccine has met international standards. It has already listed the Pfizer/BioNTechAstraZeneca-SK BioSerum Institute of IndiaAstra Zeneca EUJanssenModerna and Sinopharm jabs.

A WHO listing paves the way for countries worldwide to approve and import a vaccine for distribution quickly, especially those states without an international-standard regulator of their own.

Separately, 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 infections.

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 imports.

BEIJING PRESSURE

Taipei’s own deal with BioNTech fell through earlier this year – a problem blamed on pressure from Beijing. China has denied the accusation.

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.

Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan health minister, expressed his gratitude to Gou and said the government was reviewing the application.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical has a contract with BioNTech to sell vaccines in China and Taiwan but the government in Taipei said it would deal only with BioNTech in Germany dirctly as it does not trust vaccines from China.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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