North Korea says NO to COVID vaccines

Public health and aid organisations across the globe have failed in a bid to get three million North Koreans vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the failure is no fault of their own – the Government of the very country they sought to help has vetoed the vaccines at the 11th hour.

The doses bound for North Korea were developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech. Distribution into North Korea was being coordinated by UNICEF as part of the COVAX program.

COVAX is a scheme involving a number of aid agencies that aims to get COVID vaccines into developing countries.

With the deal all but finalised, the roughly three million vaccine vials were due to be sent to North Korea this week, until the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the offer. The Wall Street Journal reports that the North Korean Public Health Ministry told UNICEF to send the vaccines to “harder-hit countries”.

“We continue to work with DPRK authorities to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization alliance, one of the organizations involved with COVAX, said in a statement sent to Reuters.

It’s not the first time North Korea has rejected shipments of COVID-19 vaccines.

In July the country refused millions of AstraZeneca doses because of concerns over side effects.

Is the North Korea COVID solution worse than the problem?

North Korea has not publicly disclosed any COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

The country has however put in place strict border restrictions, which are believed to have led to food shortages.

Some have speculated this could be the reason behind Dictator, Kim Jong-un’s, weight-loss which many observers have noted following his recent appearances.

“Kim’s response to COVID-19 has made North Korea even more isolated, leading to food shortages that are likely to impact millions. His slimmer look may also indicate Kim’s own lack of access to the food he used to have,” said Sojin Lim, Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Central Lancashire.

“It is believed that the COVID-19 border closure has affected the North Korean economy even more than the (existing global trade) sanctions.

“The border closure has resulted in a lack of access to agricultural materials such as fertiliser and machinery, making it hard for North Koreans to have a sufficient grain harvest. Additionally, food imports and humanitarian aid are not being allowed due to the lockdown.”

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