TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will send a third batch of donated COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan this week, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday, in a further show of support for the Chinese-claimed island which is now ramping up inoculations.
Motegi told reporters that the AstraZeneca Plc shots would be sent on Thursday, which would bring the country’s total donations to Taiwan so far to almost 3.4 million doses.
The first batch was sent in June, followed by a second donation earlier this month.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed its thanks, especially at a time when Japan is facing its own serious coronavirus situation.
“The friendship between Taiwan and Japan is unwavering. The Foreign Ministry once again thanks our partners in freedom and democracy for their warm assistance and strong support,” it added.
Taiwan has complained that Chinese interference blocked a deal earlier this year for it to get vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech SE, charges Beijing has denied, but since then donations have rolled in for the government.
Last month the United States donated 2.5 million Moderna Inc doses, while the Baltic state of Lithuania has pledged 20,000 shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Taiwan is rapidly expanding its vaccination programme, though so far only around one-tenth of its 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two shot regimen. But the government has millions of doses on order.
Taiwan’s own relatively small domestic COVID-19 outbreak has now generally been brought under control, though there remain sporadic community infections.
(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)