- North Korea has rejected about 3 million doses of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine, asking for them to be sent to countries that need them more.
- The isolated country had also previously rejected almost 2 million AstraZeneca vaccines due to the potential of rare but severe blood clots.
- The country has so far reported zero cases of Covid-19 but has imposed tough restrictions and hard border closures.
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North Korea has rejected about 3 million doses of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine, asking for them to be sent to other countries that have been harder hit by the coronavirus, said UNICEF Tuesday, according to Voice of America (VOA).
The United Nations Children's agency coordinated the vaccine shipment under the UN-backed COVAX program, which works to ensure poorer nations are not left behind in the Covid-19 vaccination race.
"The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has communicated that the 2.97 million doses being offered to DPR Korea by COVAX may be relocated to severely affected countries in view of the limited global supply of Covid-19 vaccines and recurrent surge in some countries," a UNICEF spokesperson told VOA in an email Tuesday.
The spokesperson added that "MOPH has said it will continue to communicate with the COVAX facility to receive Covid-19 vaccines in the coming months."
Earlier this year, the COVAX program had planned to send nearly 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to North Korea. However, the batches were rejected in July due to worries over incidences of rare but serious blood clots among those who received the vaccine, reported Reuters.
The isolated kingdom is also skeptical of the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines, the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) told Yonhap News. The South Korean think tank said North Korea prefers Russia's Sputnik V vaccine but wants it to be provided free of cost.
North Korea has reported zero Covid-19 cases, but experts have expressed skepticism at the accuracy of their numbers. In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blasted North Korean officials for their "chronic irresponsibility and incompetence" handling the pandemic, signalling that the virus may have reached the country.