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2.5mn US vaccines on way to Taiwan

2021-06-19 HKT 22:48
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  • Elderly people queue for limited supplies of Covid-19 vaccinations in Taipei on Wednesday. File photo: AP
    Elderly people queue for limited supplies of Covid-19 vaccinations in Taipei on Wednesday. File photo: AP
The United States is shipping 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan on Saturday, a senior administration official said, more than tripling Washington's previous allocation of shots for the island.

Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called "vaccine diplomacy", had promised to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan, but is increasing that number as President Joe Biden's administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world.

Beijing has repeatedly offered to send coronavirus vaccines to the island, which has been battling a spike in domestic infections. Taipei has expressed concern about the safety of mainland shots.

The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna vaccine left Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan's China Airlines early on Saturday local time and will arrive in Taipei on Sunday evening, the senior US administration official said, adding that the prompt delivery was due to experts from both sides being able to work out regulatory issues.

"We are not allocating these doses, or delivering these doses, based on political or economic conditions. We are donating these vaccines with the singular objective of saving lives," the official said.

"Our vaccines do not come with strings attached," the official said, adding Taiwan had "faced unfair challenges in its efforts to acquire vaccines on the global marketplace".

A deal for Taiwan to purchase vaccines from Germany's BioNTech fell through this year, with Taiwan's government blaming pressure from Beijing.

Beijing has denied the accusation, saying Taiwan is free to obtain the vaccines through Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical, which has a contract to sell BioNTech's vaccine in China.

The de facto US embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, later confirmed the delivery. (Reuters)