Health

The United States sends Taiwan 2.5 million doses of vaccine, tripling the promise

The United States sent 2.5 million doses of the Modern COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan on Sunday, tripling a previous pledge in a donation with public health and geopolitical significance.

The shipment arrived on a China Airlines cargo plane that had left Memphis the day before. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung and Brent Christensen, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Taiwan, were among those who welcomed the plane onto the tarmac at the airport outside the capital, Taipei.

Chen said America was showing its friendship while Taiwan faces its most severe fire. “When I saw these vaccines falling on the plane, I was really touched,” he said of the rumor in a building where boxes of vaccines, some with American flags on them, had been carried on dolls with wheels .

Taiwan, which had been relatively free of the virus, has been on guard by a source of nine cases since May and is now on track to receive vaccines. The number of COVID-19 deaths on the island of 24 million people has jumped to 549, from just a dozen before the fire.

The U.S. donation also signals its support for Taiwan in the face of growing pressure from China, which claims the self-governing island off the east coast as its territory. The United States does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan by virtue of what is known as the one-China policy, but they are legally bound by its laws to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself.

“These vaccines are proof of America’s commitment to Taiwan,” said Christensen, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, de facto the U.S. Embassy. “Taiwan is a member of the family of the world’s democratic countries.”

The United States promised 750,000 doses of vaccine to Taiwan earlier this month, sending Senator Tammy Duckworth and two of his Senate colleagues to the island aboard a military transport plane to make the announcement. . Taiwan has ordered 5.05 million doses directly from Modern but so far has received only 390,000, including a second shipment that arrived on Friday.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the United States had decided to increase donation through the efforts of both sides in the past two weeks.

In a Facebook post, Tsai joined the United States to draw attention to its common democratic systems. China, which has been ruled alone by the Communist Party since 1949, says Taiwan must finally come under its control and reserves the right to use force if necessary.

“Whether it is for regional peace and stability or for the virus that is a common human adversary, we will continue to defend common ideas and work together,” Tsai wrote in Chinese.

He accused China of blocking Taiwan from taking the Pfizer vaccine through BioNTech, the German co-developer. Chinese officials have repeatedly denied the accusation, saying that China is willing to supply vaccines to Taiwan. Taiwanese law, however, prohibits the importation of medicines made in China.

The U.S. donation follows Japan’s shipment of 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early June. Taiwan has ordered 10 million doses from AstraZeneca but has yet to receive most.

The fire, which has slowed down a bit, has spurred the government to try to extend testing and vaccination. Health authorities on Sunday reported 107 new cases spread locally, the lowest in more than two months.


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