U.S. boosts Taiwan’s COVID-19 fight with vaccines as senators visit
Senator Tammy Duckworth of the United States announced on Sunday that the United States will provide 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan as part of the country’s strategy to distribute vaccinations globally, providing a much-needed boost to the island’s fight against the epidemic.
Taiwan is dealing with an increase in domestic cases but has been impacted by global vaccination shortages, as have many other countries. Only about 3% of the country’s 23.5 million residents have received vaccinations, with the majority receiving only the first of two required shots.
Duckworth said Taiwan would receive 750,000 doses as part of the first tranche of US gifts while speaking at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport after a three-hour visit with Democratic Senators Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons.
“It was vital to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to get immunizations because we recognise your urgent need and respect this collaboration,” she said after the group arrived from South Korea at a press briefing.
She did not specify which vaccines Taiwan would receive or when it would receive them. Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters that he hoped to find out which company’s shots they would receive soon.
Taiwan has complained that China, which claims the democratically-governed island as its own, is attempting to prevent the island from obtaining vaccines from other countries, an allegation Beijing denies.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, who stood by Duckworth’s side, expressed gratitude to the US for the gift.
“While we are doing everything possible to import vaccines, we must overcome difficulties to ensure that these life-saving drugs arrive without incident from Beijing,” he stated.
China has offered Taiwan Chinese-made vaccinations, but the Taipei administration has raised concerns about their safety and, in any case, cannot import them without modifying Taiwanese law, which prohibits them from entering the country.
At the airport, the senators met with President Tsai Ing-wen, who stated that the vaccines, along with those supplied by Japan last week, would be a huge help in the fight against the illness.
In video published by Tsai’s office, she told the senators, “The vaccines are timely rain for Taiwan, and your aid will be inscribed on our hearts.”
Senators and congressmen from the United States visit Taiwan on a regular basis, but coming in the midst of an outbreak of diseases on the island, when the island’s borders are generally closed to visitors, is a powerful show of support.
They also landed aboard a C-17 Globemaster III cargo from the United States Air Force, rather than a private aeroplane, as is customary for senior US guests.
Vaccines have been arriving in Taiwan at an increasing rate.
On Friday, Japan sent Taiwan 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine for free, more than doubling the number of shots the island has received so far.
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