U.S. boosts Taiwan’s Covid-19 combat with 750,000 vaccine doses

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People wait in line at a temporary rapid Covid-19 test center in the Wanhua area of ​​Taipei, Taiwan on May 28, 2021.

I-Hwa Cheng | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The United States will donate 750,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Taiwan as part of the country’s plan to share vaccinations worldwide, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said Sunday, providing a much-needed boost in the island’s battle against the pandemic.

Taiwan is grappling with an increase in domestic cases but, like many other places, is affected by a global shortage of vaccines. Only about 3% of the 23.5 million people have been vaccinated, with most only needing the first of two vaccinations.

Speaking at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei after arriving for a three-hour visit with Senators Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons, Duckworth said Taiwan will receive 750,000 cans as part of the first tranche of US donations.

“It was crucial for the United States that Taiwan was included in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and value this partnership,” she said at a press conference following the group’s arrival from South Korea.

She did not provide any information about which vaccines Taiwan would get and when.

Taiwan has complained about China, which is claiming the democratically ruled island, and trying to prevent the island from having international access to vaccines, which Beijing has denied.

At Duckworth’s side, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked the United States for the donation.

“While we are doing our best to import vaccines, we must overcome obstacles to ensure that these life-saving drugs can be easily shipped from Beijing,” he said.

China has offered Taiwanese-made vaccines to Taiwan, but the Taipei government has repeatedly raised concerns about their safety and there is absolutely no way they can import them without changing Taiwanese law that prohibits their importation.

The senators also met with President Tsai Ing-wen at the airport, who said the vaccines, along with the vaccines donated by Japan last week, would be of great help in the fight against the virus.

“The vaccines are timely rain for Taiwan and your help will be engraved on our hearts,” Tsai told senators in footage released by her office.

U.S. Senators and Congressmen routinely visit Taiwan during normal times, but coming in the middle of a surge in infections on the island when borders remain largely closed to visitors is a strong show of support.

Unusually, they also arrived on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter, rather than a private jet, as is usually the case for older US visitors.

Taiwan’s vaccine arrivals have picked up pace.

Japan shipped 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s coronavirus vaccine to Taiwan for free on Friday, a gesture that more than doubled the number of vaccinations the island has received to date.

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