Taiwan’s nettlesome relationship with China caused the self-governing island to struggle for months to acquire doses of BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine before a deal was finally reached in July.
But in a surprising turn of events, Taiwanese health officials now say that China’s delay in approving the German drugmaker’s shot for its own domestic use could allow Taiwan to receive doses ahead of schedule.
The island’s government is working to acquire BioNTech shots from a batch that was originally intended for China, Taiwanese officials said this week. The shots are expected to leave the factory gates late this month, officials said. But it is unclear how many Taiwan might receive and when they might arrive.
The island had been scheduled to begin receiving BioNTech shots in late September from Fosun Pharma, the Chinese company that is distributing the vaccine in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
China has administered nearly two billion Covid-19 vaccine doses, all of them made by domestic producers such as Sinopharm. BioNTech, which developed its vaccine with Pfizer, expressed confidence months ago that Chinese regulators would approve the shot quickly. But their blessing has yet to materialize.
Fosun Pharma did not respond to a request for comment. In a midyear financial report published this week, the company said that Phase 2 clinical trials of the BioNTech vaccine in mainland China were “progressing in an orderly manner.”
Taiwan has administered first vaccine doses to more than 40 percent of its 23.5 million people, according to government statistics. The island has reported only a trickle of new infections per day in recent weeks.