Taipei, June 3 (CNA) Private efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for Taiwan, like the one led by Buddhist group Fo Guang Shan, are well-intentioned, but are unlikely to be successful, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳 時 中) Thursday.

Chen, who also heads Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), was responding to the Kaohsiung-based group’s efforts to purchase 500,000 single-dose COVID-19 vaccines from US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

The plans, however, encountered a significant problem on Wednesday, when the company said in a statement to media that it would only sell vaccines to governments and certain international organizations.

At a press conference on Thursday, Chen said Fo Guang Shan provided relevant documents to the government, but when the CECC contacted Johnson & Johnson, he confirmed that he would only provide vaccines through the COVAX program.

“Everyone is very passionate, but in reality, they are unable to make the purchase,” Chen said.

To date, the only private effort that has submitted a formal vaccine purchase and import request is that led by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. founder Terry Gou (郭 台 銘), Chen said.

But even Gou, who said he plans to import 5 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines directly from its manufacturer in Germany, has yet to submit two required documents, namely an original letter of authorization from the manufacturer and a quality certificate, Chen said.

Earlier today, CECC official Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) was asked about the CECC’s insistence on receiving such documents, which some say is hampering efforts to access vaccines quickly.

Chou, however, said requiring the documents is the only way the government can ensure the vaccines come from a reliable source, especially since there are many “brokers and scammers” in the market.

Fo Guang Shan, for his part, said on Thursday that he had managed to establish government contacts with US vaccine maker Johnson & Johnson, and it didn’t matter how much he signed, Apple Daily reported.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) called on the CCCB to provide the public with regular updates on private interest demands for the purchase of vaccines overseas, due to general public interest, as well as some concerns about government approval was needlessly slow.

To date, the country has imported less than 900,000 vaccines, mainly AstraZeneca, and had administered 562,029 doses Wednesday, on a population of 23.5 million inhabitants.

The vaccination rate of around 2% is considered one of the lowest in the world.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chang Ming-hsuan and Matthew Mazzetta)

Final element / cs

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