Jun 21, 2021

TSMC & Foxconn to Address Taiwan’s COVID Vaccination Issue

Foxconn
TSMC
Taiwan
COVID
4 min
Subject to regulatory standard-compliance, the Taiwanese government to fuse public and private procurement to bolster COVID vaccination supply chain

The government of Taiwan has announced its approval of a plan for tech titans Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Foxconn to both purchase and donate 10 million doses of the much-needed COVID-19 vaccinations, as the island nation struggles to maintain a positive flow of jabs. 

 

The decision was reportedly made last Friday, following a 1.5-hour meeting between Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, Foxconn founder, Terry Gou, and TSMC’s current chairman, Mark Liu. 

 

News of the announcement can be found on the Taiwan Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) website: 

 

“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 scepticism. 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.”  

 

According to Sophia Yang, a journalist for local media outlet Taiwan News, the governments initial scepticism may have spawned from rumours that Foxconn’s philanthropic act would come at the expense of retail shareholders, who were unable to vote or offer their opinion on the company’s initiative. However, the company issued a statement on Sunday, stating that the initiative had already been discussed with all relevant shareholders and that it was supported by the board of directors in a recent meeting. 

 

Why The Change of Heart?

Many commentators and critiques are questioning the sudden change of heart by the Taiwanese government. Presumably, for a start, they’re beginning to question their own ability to get themselves out of a COVID-19 vaccine-shaped hole, as the country struggles to find maintain a consistent supply of vaccinations for its population. Second, the government were potentially coerced into meeting with the industry-leading executives due to growing social media pressure ─ aptly applied by Terry Gou, himself. 

 

In a recent public post on his Facebook page, Gou expressed his frustration at the Taiwanese government’s reluctance to allow the country’s leading tech giants to procure vaccinations for the population. In the post, Gou shared the details of his recent attempts to gain permission from the government and claimed that the current state of COVID-19 in Taiwan was a cause for great worry and that it has been the cause of many sleepless nights. To further his appeal in the public forum, the Foxconn Founder vowed to use his ‘decades of international contacts and business experience’ to procure the vaccine in a ‘seller’s market’. 

 

Who Will Provide the Vaccines?

In the executives’ proposal to the government, they apparently made it clear that they would look to procure vaccinations from BioNTech ─ a leading German biotechnology company that has recently been called upon to share their vaccine technology and recipe with the rest of the world, due to its excellence. Nobody knows the exact cost of Foxconn and TSMCs plan, but it’s expected to exceed US$216mn, and once they have been purchased the doses will be sent directly to Taiwan from the manufacturing hub in Germany. 

 

Where Did It Go Wrong?

Taiwan, throughout the first year of the pandemic, was heralded as ─ pretty much ─ a COVID-free island nation. However, since the rise of the Delta variant, which originated on Indian soil, the country is now in the middle of an outbreak that has killed from than 450 people since mid-May. In reaction to this infiltration, the Taiwanese government has enforced social distancing rules, closed leisure venues, and called off its annual, legendary Dragon Boat Festival. 

 

Outbreaks of the Delta variant started in Taipei, the nation’s capital, and quickly spread to Miaoli, a neighbouring city. The effect on these major cities has resulted in semiconductor chip companies, which the nation is particularly well-known for, closing their doors, suspending operations, and building testing centres for their employees.

 

Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter where it went wrong for Taiwan. What matters is that the world, and especially big business, comes together to help the island nation to innoculate itself against the novel Coronavirus. Once that has been achieved, Taiwan can get back to its former levels of semiconductor production and, hopefully, save the rest of the world’s technology sector from an imminent cutting-edge flagship device-shaped collapse.

 

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