The US donation came after Taiwan accused China of trying to prevent the island from obtaining international vaccines.
The US Senate delegation announced that the United States will provide Taiwan with 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the country’s plan to share millions of injections globally, after Taipei complained that China had hindered its efforts to obtain injections.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, who arrived in Taiwan with two colleagues on Sunday, said their visit highlighted the bipartisan support for the democratic island that Beijing claims to be its territory.
“We came here as friends because we know that Taiwan is now going through a challenging period, which is why it is especially important for the three of us to come here in a bipartisan way,” Duckworth said.
“It is vital for the United States to include Taiwan in the first batch of vaccinations because we recognize your urgent need and we value this partnership.”
She did not specify which vaccines Taiwan will get or when.
Taiwan is coping with a surge in domestic cases, but like most parts of the world, it is affected by the global vaccine shortage. Of its 23.5 million people, only about 3% were vaccinated, and most people only received the first dose required twice. Taiwan accused China of blocking its efforts to obtain vaccines, but Beijing denied this claim and provided the island with vaccines made in China.
However, the Taipei government has repeatedly expressed concerns about their safety. In any case, they cannot be accepted unless Taiwan’s laws prohibiting imports are changed.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Wu Zhaoxie stood by Duckworth and thanked Washington for his donation.
He said: “While we are doing our best to import vaccines, we must also overcome obstacles to ensure the smooth delivery of these life-saving drugs from Beijing.”
Wu said that Taiwan is fortunate to have many like-minded countries expressing support. He said this is to safeguard freedom and democracy in the face of autocracy.
Duckworth and her colleagues Dan Sullivan and Christopher Kuhn also met with President Tsai Ing-wen at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei. Cai said that these vaccines and the vaccine donated by Japan last week will greatly help them fight the virus.
“Vaccines are Taiwan’s timely rain, and your help will be etched in our hearts,” Tsai Ing-wen told the senators in a video posted by her office.
U.S. senators and congressmen regularly visit Taiwan during normal hours, but the island’s infection rate is rising when the Taiwan border is basically closed to tourists, which is a kind of strong support.
Unusually, they also arrived on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane instead of the private jet that senior American tourists usually fly.
The arrival of vaccines in Taiwan has been accelerating.
Japan on Friday provided Taiwan with 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine free of charge, a gesture that is more than twice the number of vaccines the island has received so far.