Foxconn founder says hopes to import BioNTech COVID shots for Taiwan

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Foxconn Technology Group founder and chairman, Terry Gou, speaks during a news conference after his trip to the U.S., in Taipei, Taiwan May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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TAIPEI, May 29 (Reuters) - Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of major Apple Inc (AAPL.O) supplier Foxconn, said on Saturday his charity plans to apply to import 5 million doses of BioNTech SE's (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccine into Taiwan, which is tackling a spike in infections.

After recording just a handful of daily infections for months, Taiwan is currently dealing with relatively large numbers of community transmissions. It has only vaccinated around 1% of its more than 23 million people, though it has almost 30 million shots on order, from AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and two domestic firms.

The Chinese-claimed island has blamed Beijing for nixing a deal earlier this year for BioNTech vaccines, which China denies. Facing pressure from opposition parties, the government says it will allow companies to apply to it to import vaccines.

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In a statement, Gou said that his Yonglin Foundation plans to apply for 5 million BioNTech doses made and packaged in Germany to be imported into Taiwan.

The shots would be airlifted from Germany to Taiwan without going via any middleman, he added.

"This plan is in process," Gou said.

BioNTech did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it has repeatedly declined to comment on the state of talks with Taiwan.

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Centre said shortly before Gou's statement was released that it welcomed any offers of help from charities or religious groups, but it was up to the central government to sign vaccine contracts and distribute shots.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (600196.SS) has a contract with BioNTech to sell the vaccines in Greater China, including to Taiwan, but Taiwan's government says it has and will only deal with BioNTech in Germany, and that it does not trust vaccines from China.

Outside of Greater China, BioNTech has partnered with Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N).

China says Taiwan has gone against commercial principles in seeking to bypass Fosun and go directly to BioNTech.

Gou said his charity would not import Chinese-made vaccines.

"Please do not confuse the German-made BioNTech (shots) with Chinese-made vaccine."

Taiwan has reported 7,806 infections since the pandemic began, including 99 deaths.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.