TAIPEI: Taiwan's Foxconn and TSMC said on Monday (Jul 12) they had reached deals to buy 10 million doses of Germany's BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, putting the total cost of the highly politicised deal at about US$350 million.
Taiwan's government has tried for months to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech and has blamed China, which claims the island as its own territory, for nixing an agreement the two sides were due to sign earlier this year. China denies the accusations.
Last month, facing public pressure about the slow pace of Taiwan's inoculation programme, the government agreed to allow Foxconn's founder Terry Gou, as well as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines.
BioNTech's Chinese sales agent Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group said on Sunday that an agreement had been signed, but did not give details of a delivery timeframe.
Gou wrote on his Facebook page that he was "gratified" the deal had been completed, which will see Foxconn and TSMC each buy 5 million doses, to be donated to the government for distribution.
"But we can't relax, because we will continue to work hard to push for the delivery time and quantity," he said, adding the vaccines will come directly from Germany.
"However, this batch of vaccines delivered directly from the German factory I believe will help Taiwanese society to increase confidence and offer respite in the face of the epidemic."
The BioNTech vaccine drama has transfixed Taiwan and dominated headlines. While a relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is largely under control, only about a tenth of its 23.5 million people have received at least one of a two-shot regime.
TSMC and Foxconn, both major Apple suppliers, said in a joint statement the first BioNTech vaccines were not expected to arrive until late September at the earliest, shipped directly from Germany, but did not say how many would come at first.
Taiwan's Cabinet said the vaccines would be donated for free to the government.
Gou said Beijing did not interfere in the talks.
"During the negotiation period after my donation was proposed, there was no guidance or interference from the Beijing authorities in the mainland on the vaccine procurement process."
The German firm has yet to comment, and Fosun deleted an earlier statement from its Wechat account citing BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin as saying the company was "very grateful" to be able to supply the vaccine to Taiwan.
Fosun did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why those comments were removed.
Taiwan has millions of vaccines on order, mainly from AstraZeneca and Moderna, while the United States and Japan have together donated almost 5 million doses to the island to help speed up vaccinations.
A person familiar with the talks told Reuters the involvement of TSMC and the unconditional US and Japanese vaccine donations had created a global environment that was favourable to Taiwan and made it hard for China to obstruct the deal.
A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy shots.