KEY POINTS

  • The North Korean government cited concerns over the SinoVac vaccine's efficacy
  • Pyongyang has indicated an interest in Russian-made vaccines
  • North Korea is yet to report any confirmed COVID-19 cases

The North Korean government has rejected roughly three million COVID-19 doses of China’s SinoVac vaccine and urged officials to send it elsewhere, the UNICEF said Wednesday.

A spokesperson for UNICEF said Pyongyang officials asked the SinoVac shots to be sent to countries severely affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to The Wall Street Journal. The vaccines were offered in recent weeks through the Covax initiative, which aims to help lower-income countries obtain vaccine supplies.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization.

The hermit nation has previously expressed doubts over the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, citing reports on incidents in the United States and Europe of individuals developing adverse reactions to the shots.

North Korea has also expressed doubts over the level of protection offered by the Chinese-made shots, but has shown interest in vaccines made in Russia, according to Reuters.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in July that his country had already offered to donate medical equipment and the Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine to North Korea amid rumors that the isolated country had been experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

"During our embassy's contacts with representatives of the North Korean leadership, we said on many occasions that we are ready to render the required assistance, if necessary," Lavrov was cited as saying by Russian news agency Tass.

"Our humanitarian assistance in other forms is regularly delivered to our North Korean neighbors."

Lavrov also noted at the time that Russia registered no incidents of COVID-19 outbreaks in North Korea, even after it evacuated dozens of its citizens from the country, with its embassy in Pyongyang citing “difficult coronavirus times.”

"From the very start of the coronavirus pandemic, the North Korean authorities took probably the harshest measures to isolate the country, and prevent the infection from finding the way inside. It is practically a total lockdown, which remains in place to date,” he had said.

The WHO's weekly situation report showed that North Korea tested 37,291 people for COVID-19 and collected more than 74,000 samples. The latest tests were performed on 665 people from Aug. 12 to 19.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to dismantle part of the Yongbyon complex at a second summit with then US president Donald Trump in exchange for sanctions relief, and his offer was rejected
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to dismantle part of the Yongbyon complex at a second summit with then US president Donald Trump in exchange for sanctions relief, and his offer was rejected KCNA VIA KNS / STR
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