The US would give 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan as part of the country’s intention to distribute injections internationally, according to US Senator Tammy Duckworth on Sunday, providing a much-needed boost to the island’s fight against the pandemic.
Taiwan is dealing with an increase in local cases, but has been impacted by global vaccination shortages, as have many other locations. Only around 3% of the country’s 23.5 million people have been immunised, with the majority receiving only the first of two required shots.
Speaking at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport after arriving on a brief visit with fellow Senators Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons, Duckworth said Taiwan would be getting 750,000 doses as part of the first tranche of U.S. donations.
“It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognise your urgent need and we value this partnership,” she said at a news conference. She did not give details of which vaccines Taiwan would get or when.
Taiwan has complained about China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own, trying to block the island from accessing vaccines internationally, which Beijing has denied.
Standing by 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 medicines are delivered free from trouble from Beijing,” he said.
China has offered Taiwan Chinese-made vaccinations, but the Taipei administration has frequently raised concerns about their safety and, in any event, cannot import them without modifying Taiwanese legislation, which prohibits their import.
Senators will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen to talk about security and other matters.
In normal times, U.S. senators and congressmen visit Taiwan on a regular basis, but arriving in the midst of an outbreak of diseases on the island while its borders remain mostly closed to outsiders is a significant show of solidarity.
They also landed aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo, rather as a private aeroplane, as is customary for senior US visits.
Taiwan’s vaccine arrivals have been gathering pace.
Japan delivered to Taiwan 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine on Friday for free, in a gesture that more than doubled the amount of shots the island has received to date.