TSMC and Foxconn , via the later's YongLin Foundation, have united in the fight against COVID-19 by acquiring and donating 10 million doses of BioNTech's vaccine to Taiwan's CDC (Center for Disease Control).
This is the latest direct participation of tech companies in the vaccination efforts currently underway around the globe, and is theoretically enough to vaccinate around 5 million Taiwanese citizens. The donated vaccine doses are expected to be delivered starting in September, and will be distributed according to Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare vaccination plan. The supply deal is valued at around $350 million.
As countries around the world metaphorically battle throughout the market in efforts to secure a steady flow of vaccines for their citizens, the joint action from TSMC and Foxconn should be enough to guarantee vaccination for around 20% of Taiwan's population, currently numbering roughly 23 million, making it the 17th most densely populated country in the world.
Despite that population density, Taiwan has thus far managed to circumvent the worst COVID-19 scenarios, as the country currently registers a historic total of 14,005 cases (with 1,113 recovered citizens and 549 deaths to be mourned). However, as new highly transmissible strains of the virus surface, the best way to control for future infections is via vaccination -- and Taiwan is severely lacking in that respect, as the latest data shows that only 0.3% of the population is currently vaccinated.
TSMC and Foxconn both have operational security to be earned with this move. Vaccinated employees pose less of a hazard not only for operational efficiency, but also for outbreak prevention on both company's usually packed manufacturing facilities. TSMC in particular employs highly specialized technicians, and the company is currently undergoing a government probe after three of its employees were diagnosed with the virus.
As a result, one of Taiwan's foremost COVID-19 experts, Wang Pi-sheng, has been sent to the company's Hsinchu base on Monday. The Taiwan CDC explained the decision with TSMC's strategic importance, saying that "TSMC has a massive force of employees and the company is the most important chip supplier in Taiwan."
Here's hoping that the suspected outbreak is quickly controlled, first for the health of the workers and their families. But the already strained supply lines of various chips and components could turn into much larger and longer-lasting shortages across many industries if these two companies are heavily impacted by COVID outbreaks before a significant number of workers and their loved ones are able to get vaccinated.
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Francisco Pires is a freelance news writer for Tom's Hardware with a soft side for quantum computing.