The United States has increased its COVID-19 vaccine assistance to Taiwan, sending 2.5 million shots to the island.
Doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Taiwan on Sunday on a transport airplane belonging to Taiwan’s China Airlines. The plane took off from the southern U.S. city of Memphis in Tennessee.
The plane was welcomed at the airport outside Taipei by Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung and Brent Christensen, the top U.S. official in Taiwan.
Chen said the donation showed the strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship at a time when Taiwan faces its most severe COVID-19 outbreak. “When I saw these vaccines coming down the plane, I was really touched,” Chen told reporters.
The U.S. had promised to send Taiwan 750,000 COVID-19 doses this month. However, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden increased that number as part of an assistance program that aims to provide 500 million vaccine doses worldwide.
Taiwan has not been as severely affected by COVID-19 as some of its Asian neighbors. But a rise in cases that started in May has left officials struggling to get vaccines. The Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University reports that Taiwan has recorded 569 deaths from COVID-19. About six percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the U.S. had decided to increase its vaccine donations after negotiations over the past two weeks.
The latest U.S. assistance signals support for Taiwan in the face of growing pressure from China. Mainland China considers Taiwan a rebel province and has threatened to reclaim the territory by force if necessary. The U.S. does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan because it has relations with the government in Beijing under what is known as the one-China policy. However, American law requires the U.S. to assist Taiwan in defending itself.
“These vaccines are proof of America's commitment to Taiwan," said Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan. "Taiwan is a family member to the world’s democratic countries,” he added.
An administration official told Reuters the vaccine doses were not being provided “based on political or economic conditions.” The assistance is aimed at “saving lives,” the official said.
“Our vaccines do not come with strings attached,” the official added. The official said that Taiwan had faced “unfair challenges” in its efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines.
Taiwan has accused mainland China of blocking its efforts to get the Pfizer vaccine through BioNTech, the vaccine’s German co-developer.
Mainland Chinese officials have denied this and said China is willing to provide vaccines to Taiwan. Taiwanese law, however, bans the import of Chinese-made medicine.
The U.S. donation follows Japan’s shipment to Taiwan of 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early June. Taiwan has ordered 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, but has yet to receive most of them.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
dose – n. the amount of medication to be taken at one time
commitment – n. a promise or strong decision to do something
no strings attached – phr. something that carries no special conditions
challenge – n. a difficult task of problem