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Taiwan’s major Buddhist group secures 5 million doses of Pfizer coronavirus shot, bringing nation’s order of vaccine to 15 million

Taiwan’s major Buddhist group secures 5 million doses of Pfizer coronavirus shot, bringing nation’s order of vaccine to 15 million
A major Taiwanese Buddhist group has signed a deal to procure 5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The generous donation has expanded the island’s order by a third, bringing the total number to 15 million.

The deal was announced by the Tzu Chi Foundation on Wednesday. The charity group pledged to donate the vaccines to the authorities of the island, claimed by China as an integral part of the country, as soon as they begin arriving.

“After successfully signing the vaccine procurement contract, all the purchased vaccines will be donated to the competent authority for use by the public,” the group said in a statement posted to its Facebook account.

The deal was reached with a Hong Kong subsidiary of the Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, trading as Fosun Pharma, according to the foundation. It has exclusive rights to distribute the shot in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao. The shot cannot be sold by Pfizer to Taiwan directly.

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While Fosun Pharma has remained silent on the agreement so far, the deal was confirmed by BioNTech in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The donation follows the combined 10-million-shot purchase by two major Taiwanese tech firms announced earlier this month, bringing the total number of Pfizer shots expected to be received by Taiwan to 15 million. Taiwan’s Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng expressed the government’s gratitude to Tzu Chi, and said the 15-million-dose order would arrive in batches, though no timeframe was specified.

Taiwan has fared extremely well in the pandemic, keeping its tally under the 1,000 mark for over a year. It experienced a short-lived spike in Covid-19 cases a few weeks ago, but the authorities managed to wrestle the situation back under control. Currently, the island’s tally stands at around the 15,500 mark, with 773 people having succumbed to the disease.

Taiwan has embarked on a massive vaccination drive, ordering millions of doses from various manufacturers. However, only some 20% of the nation’s 23.5 million population have so far received at least one jab of coronavirus vaccines. The island has declined China’s offer to ship in its own vaccines. On Monday, its health authority approved for emergency use a domestically manufactured shot produced by the Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp.

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No final-phase trial data has been made available for the shot as yet, but Taiwan’s health ministry described the vaccines made by Medigen as “no worse than” those created by AstraZeneca, which are widely used on the island.

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