Confusion around failure of deal to import possible COVID-19 vaccine

Taipei,  A Taiwanese biotechnology company that said last month it had been authorized by a German company to sell a prospective COVID-19 vaccine announced on Tuesday that it had failed to negotiate a distribution agreement with Taiwan’s government, but the two sides offered conflicting explanations as to the reasons why.

Taipei-based TTY Biopharm Company announced on Oct. 12 that it had reached a deal with Germany’s BioNTech SE (BNT) to distribute its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently in Phase 2/3 of clinical trials in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

At the time, the Taiwanese company said it had been authorized to sell 30 million doses of the vaccine — enough to immunize 15 million people with the required two doses — and that it could provide the initial batch of 10 million doses as early as the first quarter of next year, if the government confirmed the order by the end of October.

On Tuesday, however, the company said the authorization had expired after BNT failed to negotiate an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Welfare during more than 20 days of talks.

According to the company, the two sides were unable to come to terms on the quantity and overall cost of the order.

Later that day, however, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) disputed this explanation, contending that the Taiwanese company had not provided documents showing that it was authorized to represent BNT and had not submitted a draft distribution contract.

“The size and pricing of the order are negotiable, but that’s on the condition that proof of authorization and a contract are first submitted,” CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.

Despite the setback, Chuang insisted that the government will continue looking for other potential channels to import the BNT- produced vaccine.

It could also end up receiving it through the COVAX program, Chuang said, referring to an international vaccine allocation effort that aims to have 2 billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available by the end of 2021.

The dispute with TTY Biopharm was especially surprising in that its current chairman, Lin Chuan (林全), served as the first premier in President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration after she took office in 2016.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, neither side had released additional details to support its claims.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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