TAIPEI - Taiwan could get up to 9 million doses of BioNTech SE's COVID-19 vaccine this year, the founder of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn said on Monday, laying out a delivery timetable for a vaccine order that became heavily politicised. Taiwan had blamed China, which claims the island as its own territory, for nixing an original order from the German firm this year - charges Beijing has angrily denied.
Taiwan's government then allowed major Apple Inc supplier Foxconn - formally Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd - as well as its high-profile billionaire founder, Terry Gou, along with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, to negotiate on its behalf for the doses.
The first batch of BioNTech shots arrived last week. A Taiwanese Buddhist group has also ordered 5 million shots, with government approval.
Writing on his Facebook page, Gou said the second batch of vaccines should arrive before the end of the week, with the third batch coming around the middle of the month.
"Following on, it is estimated 700,000 to 800,000 doses per week will come as weekly arrivals, so the target of 8-9 million doses this year will be reached as soon as possible, but we are also working hard to get more to Taiwan this year," he added.
BioNTech did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gou was not able to be at the airport to welcome the first batch as he was in quarantine after returning from a trip to Europe.
He said that "at the moment" there were no plans for him to receive the second batch in person to "avoid dragging in lots of people".
Taiwan is getting the shots, jointly developed with Pfizer Inc, earlier than expected as a delay in regulatory approval of the shot for use in mainland China made a surplus available for the island. The vaccine is approved for use in Chinese-run Hong Kong and Macau.
Taiwan's COVID-19 pandemic is well under control, with a vaccination programme proceeding smoothly, though only around 5% of the population are fully inoculated.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))