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Taiwan says COVID-19 vaccine talks held up on China sales deal

Taiwan says COVID-19 vaccine talks held up on China sales deal

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung holds a news conference about Taiwan's efforts to get into the World Health Organization in Taipei, Taiwan, May 15, 2020. (File photo: REUTERS/Ann Wang)

TAIPEI: Talks on Taiwan buying the child version of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have stalled as Pfizer does not have the right to sell it and BioNTech and its Chinese partner do not make it, a Taiwan minister said on Monday (Apr 18).

The sales rights for the vaccine in Greater China, including Taiwan, belong to BioNTech and its Chinese sales agent, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, which snarled a deal for the main version of the vaccine last year after Taiwan accused China of political interference, which Beijing denied.

The vaccines were later purchased after Taiwan's government allowed chip-maker TSMC, a Buddhist charity and Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn, a supplier to Apple, to buy them on the government's behalf.

Taiwan health minister Chen Shih-chung said the problem now was that only Pfizer makes the version of the shot for children, but it does not have the right to sell it to Taiwan, which lies with BioNTech and Fosun.

"Pfizer makes and bottles the smaller child version of the vaccine. BioNTech does not have this delivery method," Chen told reporters.

"But Pfizer does not have the sales rights for China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. So that has complicated the contract."

Chen said he did not see "outside interference" in the talks and the government was trying to come up with a contract with all parties involved.

Speaking earlier at parliament, Chen said the talks had been going on for more than two months.

BioNTech and Fosun did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pfizer said it was not immediately able to comment.

Taiwan on Sunday authorised the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 to 11.

Taiwan is dealing with a spike in domestic COVID-19 cases, with more than 10,000 infections since the beginning of the year, though more than 99 per cent have either no symptoms or mild infections and only two people have died.

More than half the population of 23 million have received three vaccine does and the government is working on a plan to live with COVID-19 after more than two years of effectively closing its borders.

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Source: Reuters/fh

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