Taiwan accuses Beijing of blocking vaccine deal

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has accused Beijing of blocking a deal with the German manufacturer of a coronavirus vaccine, as Taiwan seeks to accelerate inoculations amid a recent surge in cases.

Tsai made the remarks during an online meeting of her ruling Democratic Progressive Party on Wednesday.

She said Taiwan had been negotiating with Britain's AstraZeneca, US firm Moderna and Germany's BioNTech, and orders for AstraZeneca and Moderna shots had been booked.

She said Taiwan had been close to completing a deal with BioNTech, but has not been able to sign the contract because of Beijing's intervention.

A Chinese pharmaceutical company reportedly said it was willing to provide Taiwan with the BioNTech vaccines, but Tsai signaled an unwillingness to accept the offer.

She said only purchasing directly from the original manufacturer would ensure quality and safety.

Taiwan, which has a population of 23.5 million, has received slightly more than 700,000 shots so far.

Tsai said 10 million doses would be available by the end of August, including those being developed by multiple local pharmaceutical companies. Opposition parties and others are criticizing the vaccine shortage.