Apple suppliers TSMC and Foxconn are working on buying millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Taiwan. The companies will buy the vaccines and then donate it to the government for distribution to the people of the country. This is part of an indirect arrangement where the government authorises private companies to buy vaccies on behalf of the country. This plan is designed to thwart Chinese interference in Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. Taiwan had initially managed to control the COVID-19 spread with travel restrictions and extensive contact tracing programmes, where the country did not have a single case for eight months straight. Now, however, Taiwan is seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections and is in need of a mass vaccination drive, similar to the those that are already underway in many countries.
The issue is that China considers Taiwan a part of the country and not an independent country of its own. China has been reportedly trying to block Taiwan’s vaccine purchases. A report in The Economic Times quotes the health minister of Taiwan as saying that Beijin is using political pressure to derail Taiwan’s plan to purchase five million doses directly from Germany’s BioNTech SE, rather than via a Chinese company which held the rights to develop and market the BioNTech-Pfizer Inc. vaccine across China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Now, Taiwan is low on vaccines, and a surge in coronavirus cases is threatening to trigger a lockdown. Only about 1 percent of the population in Taiwan is vaccinated yet. The crisis, if extends further, is a potential threat that will disrupt the whole chip industry, which is already facing a supply shortage globally.
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