People wait in line at a temporary Covid-19 rapid test center in the Wanhua area of Taipei, Taiwan on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
I-Hwa Cheng | Bloomberg via Getty Images
The United States will donate 750,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan as part of the country’s plan to share shots worldwide, US Senator Tammy Duckworth said on Sunday, giving a much-needed boost to the island’s fight against the pandemic.
Taiwan is experiencing a spike in domestic cases but like many places has been hit by global vaccine shortages. Only about 3% of the 23.5 million people are vaccinated, and most only need the first injection of two.
Speaking at Taipei’s Songshan Airport, after arriving on a three-hour visit with fellow Senators Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons, Duckworth said Taiwan would receive 750,000 doses as part of the first tranche of US donations.
“It was critical for the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and we appreciate this partnership,” she said at a news conference after the group arrived from South Korea.
She did not provide details on which vaccines Taiwan would receive and when.
Taiwan has complained about China, which claims the democratically-ruled island is its own, and is seeking to deny the island access to international vaccines, which Beijing has denied.
On Duckworth’s side, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked the United States for the donation.
“While we do our best to import vaccines, we must overcome obstacles to ensure that these life-saving drugs are delivered from Beijing without any problems,” he said.
China has offered Chinese-made Taiwan vaccines, but the government in Taipei has repeatedly expressed concerns for their safety and in any case cannot import them without amending Taiwan’s law, which prohibits their importation.
The senators also met President Tsai Ing-wen at the airport, who said the vaccines, along with the vaccines Japan donated last week, would be of great help in their fight against the virus.
“The vaccines are timely rain for Taiwan, and your help will be engraved in our hearts,” Tsai told the senators, in footage released by her office.
US senators and congressmen routinely visit Taiwan during normal times, but amid an uptick in infections on the island while borders remain largely closed to visitors, is a strong show of support.
Unusually, they also arrived on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter, rather than a private jet, as is generally the case for elderly US visitors.
Vaccine arrivals in Taiwan are gaining momentum.
Japan on Friday delivered 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s coronavirus vaccine to Taiwan for free, in a gesture that more than doubled the number of shots the island has received so far.