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TSMC says it is in the process of signing a deal for BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines

Taiwan chipmaker TSMC said on Sunday it was in the middle of the contract signing process to buy COVID-19 vaccine shots from Germany's BioNTech SE.

TSMC says it is in the process of signing a deal for BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines

People receive COVID-19 vaccines during a vaccination session for elderly people over 85 years old at a sports stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan on Jun 15, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ann Wang)

TAIPEI: Taiwan chipmaker TSMC said on Sunday (Jul 11) it was in the middle of the contract signing process to buy COVID-19 vaccines from Germany's BioNTech, part of a drawn out and highly politicised process for Taiwan to access the shot.

Taiwan's government has tried for months to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech and has blamed China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, for nixing a deal 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 Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Taiwan's Foxconn, as well as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines, which would be donated to Taiwan's government for distribution.

"There are multiple parties. We are in the middle of the contract signing process. We will make announcements once the process is completed," TSMC said in a brief emailed statement, without elaborating.

Gou's spokesperson, BioNTech and Fosun did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

READ: Hundreds of Taiwanese book Guam COVID-19 vaccination trips

Speaking to reporters later on Sunday, Premier Su Tseng-chang would only say that talks for the vaccine were ongoing.

"Once there is an definite outcome, we'll naturally report it to everyone."

A source briefed on the matter told Reuters that contract talks were "not yet 100 per cent complete", while another source said an announcement was expected this week.

FOSUN CONTRACT

Gou and TSMC this month reached an initial agreement with a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, which has a contract with BioNTech to sell the COVID-19 vaccines in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, sources told Reuters previously.

Both Gou and TSMC are seeking 5 million doses each.

The BioNTech vaccine drama has transfixed Taiwan and dominated headlines. A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy the shots, which were developed jointly with Pfizer.

READ: 'Forces for good will prevail': Taiwan welcomes massive US vaccine aid

China's government has repeatedly said that if Taiwan wants the vaccine, it has to respect commercial rules and do it through Fosun.

Germany's government has also been involved, saying it has been helping in the direct talks between Taiwan and BioNTech.

Taiwan has millions of vaccines on order, mainly from AstraZeneca and Moderna, while the United States and Japan have together donated almost five million doses to the island to help speed up vaccinations.

Around one-tenth of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot regimen, though Taiwan's own relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is now largely under control.

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Source: Reuters

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