Taiwan says no progress in BioNTech vaccine talks

FILE PHOTO: Syringes are seen in front of a displayed Biontech logo in this illustration taken November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

TAIPEI (Reuters) – There has been no progress on talks to seal a deal with Germany’s BioNTech SE for its COVID-19 vaccine though talks are continuing, Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Monday.

Taiwan complained last month that the firm had pulled out of a deal to sell it 5 million doses at the last minute, possibly due to Chinese pressure. BioNTech responded by saying it did plan on providing the vaccine.

Speaking at parliament, Chen was downbeat on the chances for finalising the agreement.

“At present there has been no further progress, and the opportunity for both to complete the contract is getting less and less,” he added.

Taiwan has a contract for five million of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 shot, a messenger RNA vaccine that relies on similar technology as that used by the Pfizer-BioNTech one.

Chen said that with the Moderna ones coming, as well as domestically made vaccines in development, there was less urgency to obtain the BioNTech one, though Taiwan would still like them if possible.

“We are still in communication with them,” he added.

BioNTech did not immediately respond to a request for comment. BioNTech signed a deal with Chinese firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd to exclusively develop and commercialise COVID-19 vaccine products developed using BioNTech’s mRNA technology in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macauand Taiwan. In return it agreed to pay up to $85 million in licensing fees and invest $50 million for a stake in the German firm. BioNTech’s development and distribution partner for the rest of the world is U.S. firm Pfizer Inc. Taiwan began its vaccination programme this month with AstraZeneca shots.

There are only 34 active cases being treated in hospital in Taiwan.

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