Taiwan tries COVID diplomacy again with Somaliland vaccine giveaway


Boxes of Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp’s domestically developed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at a vaccination site in Taipei, Taiwan August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Annabelle Chih

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TAIPEI, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Taiwan’s donation of 150,000 doses of its locally developed Medigen COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Monday, as part of the island’s new diplomatic campaign against the pandemic.

Taiwan has donated millions of face masks and other goods around the world under what the government has called the “Taiwan Can Help, Taiwan Helps” program to show that the island is a responsible member of the international community, although it is excluded from most world markets. bodies due to China’s objections.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the vaccine doses, manufactured by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (6547.TWO), arrived in Hargeisa on Sunday and were met at the airport by Somaliland Health Minister Hassan Mohamed Ali Gafadhi and Taiwan’s de facto ambassador there, Allen Lou.

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“Based on the shared values ​​of democracy and freedom between Taiwan and Somaliland, our country’s government will continue to steadily strengthen the cooperative relationship between the two sides and jointly fight against the global pandemic and uphold universal values.” , the ministry added.

Somaliland separated from Somalia in 1991 but did not gain widespread international recognition for its independence. The region has been mostly peaceful while Somalia has struggled with three decades of civil war.

Taiwan and Somaliland opened representative offices in their respective capitals in 2020.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own, and Somalia have expressed opposition to establishing ties between Taiwan and Somaliland. In Africa, only tiny Eswatini has full relations with Taiwan.

The Medigen vaccine has so far received only limited international recognition, but strong backing from the Taiwanese government, which has backed its development in part out of fear that China will hamper its international vaccine purchases.

The pandemic is well under control in Taiwan and most people have been vaccinated with injections made by AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O), although some senior officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen, have chosen to take Medigen to show their confidence in it.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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