Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou has called on the government to listen to public opinion and allow civilian groups which have different political leanings to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to import much-needed Covid-19 vaccines.
Taiwan, which is battling a surge in cases, has struggled to secure vaccines although it has signed deals to buy 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, 5 million from Moderna and more than 4.7 million doses via the Covax Facility, which is supported by the WHO.
But so far the self-ruled island has only received slightly more than 2 million vaccines, far short of the amount needed to vaccinate its 23.5 million population.
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“I am saddened to see that many people have to wait helplessly at home. Some people have lost their loved ones, while others can’t even make ends meet because they can’t go out to make their living,” Ma posted on Facebook on Thursday.
Taiwan has imposed a soft lockdown to restrict a large number of activities and suspend operations of many public outlets since May 14 following a spike in new cases and fatalities – more than 12,000 infections and 470 deaths in just one month. On Thursday 175 new infections and 19 deaths were reported.
Ma said with a fatality rate of 3.56 per cent which was higher than the global average of 2.16 per cent, the DPP government should take responsibility over its failure to keep the outbreak at bay.
“Many people are unable to get vaccinated, unable to get relief aid … and I hope President Tsai Ing-wen, as a leader, can heed the voice of the public and fulfil the most basic responsibility of helping everyone in need,” Ma said.
He said the independence-leaning DPP government should put ideology aside to allow local groups with different political stands to import vaccines.
“Some civilian groups have hoped to import vaccines which are recognised for use in the world, and what the government should do is to facilitate them to do so instead of deliberately picking on them or even blocking them all because of its political ideology,” Ma said.
The DPP government has banned the import of vaccines developed by the mainland and questioned the efficacy of the shots even though Beijing has offered to donate vaccines to the island.
Mainland authorities, however, have insisted that the two Chinese-made vaccines granted emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organization are in use in more than 90 countries and regions and are effective.
Foxconn billionaire Terry Gou has tried to buy 5 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech. The mainland company Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Company has signed a deal giving it exclusive commercial rights to develop and market the vaccine in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
The DPP said Ma was distorting the facts, adding that the government had never blocked civilian groups from importing vaccines and was working with Gou to help him buy the vaccines.
“[Tsai] and health minister Chen Shih-chung have already made it clear that the government welcomes local civilian and religious groups donating the vaccines, and have asked the executive department to set up a window to help them buy the vaccines in a collaboration effort to contain the outbreak,” said DPP spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-fen.
She said the DPP was well aware of the importance of vaccines but as a responsible government, it had to take into account the safety of the vaccines.
This article Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou urges government to allow groups to import Covid-19 vaccines first appeared on South China Morning Post