North Korea has rejected scheduled shipments of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which was organized under the global COVAX distribution scheme due to concerns about side effects, a South Korean think tank said Friday.
COVAX has said it would deliver nearly 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s shots to North Korea. The first batch was expected in late May but was delayed amid lengthy consultations, South Korea said last month.
North Korea has not reported any Covid-19 cases, an attitude questioned by South Korean and US officials. However, the returning country has introduced strict antivirus measures, including border closures and domestic travel edges.
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According to the report by the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) affiliated with South Korea̵
When asked about the report, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization Alliance, one of the organizations co-leading COVAX, referred specific questions about North Korea’s preferences and policies to the government in Pyongyang.
“We will continue to work with the North Korean authorities as we work with all the countries we serve to help respond to the Covid-19 pandemic,” a GAVI spokesman said with the initials of North Korea’s official name.
The INSS report also said that North Korea is not keen on Chinese vaccines due to concerns that they may not be as effective, but it has shown interest in shots made in Russia in the hope that they will be donated for free.
“It is leaning towards the Russian vaccine, but no arrangements have been made,” Lee Sang-keun, director of strategic research for the Korean Peninsula at the INSS, told Reuters, citing unnamed sources.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow had offered Pyongyang vaccines on several occasions.
Lee added that North Korean authorities had become concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of rare but severe blood clots in some people who received it.
While North Korea allowed its diplomats abroad to receive Covid-19 shots from the end of March, it makes no attempt to secure the vaccines for internal use, the INSS said.