People are waiting in line at the temporary Covid-19 Rapid Testing Center in the Wanhua area of Taipei, Taiwan, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Hwa Cheng | Bloomberg via Getty Images
The United States will donate 750,000 doses of Covid-19 to Taiwan as part of the country’s plan to share bullets around the world, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Sunday, offering a much-needed boost to the island’s fight against the pandemic.
Taiwan is facing a jump in domestic cases, but like many other places, it is hit by a global shortage of vaccines. Only about 3% of 23.5 million people were vaccinated, and most received only the first injection of two.
Speaking at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei, 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 U.S. donations.
“It was crucial for the United States to include Taiwan in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and appreciate this partnership,” she told a news conference after the group arrived from South Korea.
She did not provide details on which vaccines Taiwan will receive and when.
Taiwan has complained to China, which claims the island it rules democratically, as its own, trying 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 are trying to import vaccines, we need to overcome obstacles to ensure that these life-saving drugs from Beijing are delivered without problems,” he said.
China has offered Chinese-made vaccines to Taiwan, but the government in Taipei has repeatedly expressed concern about their safety and can in no way import them without changing Taiwan’s law banning their imports.
The senators also met at the airport with President Tsai Ing-wen, who said the vaccines, along with those donated by Japan last week, would be of great help in their fight against the virus.
“Vaccines are a timely rain for Taiwan and your help will be etched in our hearts,” Tsai told senators, in footage released by her office.
U.S. senators and congressmen regularly visit Taiwan at the usual times, but arriving amid an increase in infections on the island when its borders remain largely closed to visitors is strong support.
Unusually, they also arrived on a U.S. Air Force cargo ship C-17 Globemaster III, rather than a private jet as is usually the case for older U.S. visitors.
The arrivals of Taiwanese vaccines are accelerating.
Japan delivered 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca PLC coronavirus vaccine to Taiwan for free on Friday, in a gesture that more than doubled the number of shots the island has received to date.