Foxconn builds stuff for everyone. Now it finds vaccines for Taiwan, and TSMC's chipped in, too

President blames China for blocking government purchases as tech titans say they'll find five million doses

The Taiwanese government has approved a plan for tech titans Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Foxconn to purchase and donate 10 million doses of COVID-19 jabs as the country seeks to increase its rate of vaccination.

The decision was reached following a 1.5-hour meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen, Foxconn founder Terry Gou, and TSMC chairman Mark Liu.

News of the donation posted on the Taiwan's Overseas Community Affairs Council website said:

The Friday meeting came amid ongoing efforts by Gou to privately procure five million BNT vaccines through his charity, an initiative the government initially treated with skepticism.

However, with Taiwan facing a continued vaccine shortage, officials, including Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, have changed their tune and publicly expressed a willingness to cooperate with private procurement efforts, as long as they meet regulatory standards.

Local outlet Taiwan News opined that skepticism may be partially due to concerns the alleged philanthropic act is not supported by company shareholders, which Foxconn denies.

The government was pressured into meeting Gou after he posted about donating doses on his Facebook page, publicly expressing frustration at the government's reluctance to allow the endeavour. In the post, he detailed his ongoing attempts to seek permission from the government, claimed the current state of COVID in Taiwan was giving him great worry and sleepless nights, and vowed to use his "decades of international contacts and business experience" to procure the vaccine in a "seller's market".

The cost of the BioNTech procurement effort is expected to exceed $216m. The agreement comes with the stipulation that the doses are to be sent to Taiwan directly from the manufacturer in Germany.

Once heralded as an almost COVID-free success story, Taiwan has faced challenges with the Delta variant and is now in the middle of an outbreak that has killed more than 450 people since mid-May. The government has forced social distancing restrictions, closed restaurants and entertainment venues, and asked its citizens not to engage in an annual Dragon Boat Festival travel that draws enormous crowds.

Outbreaks centred in Taipei that spread to the neighbouring city of Miaoli caused chip companies to suspend operations and set up testing centres for their employees – especially foreign workers – earlier this month.

Taiwan's current vaccine rate is among the world's lowest – just 3 per cent of Taiwan's population of 23.5 million.

The news post from Taiwan's Overseas Community Affairs Council website claimed the Taiwanese government was close to purchasing five million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this year, but that the deal was on shaky grounds due to BioNTech's "re-evaluation of global vaccine supply and adjusted timelines."

President Tsai has also accused Beijing of meddling with negotiations that would have secured those doses for Taiwan.

Wherever the vaccines come from, they'll be welcomed around the world if they mean Taiwan's tech factories keep delivering the electronics that are currently in such high demand. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022