THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 1, 2021 at 16:50 JST
In this March 15 photo a nurse handles a package of refrigerated COVID-19 vaccine doses from Chinese company Sinovac, in Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang province. (Chinatopix via AP)
SEOUL--North Korea has proposed a U.N.-backed immunization program send its allotment of almost 3 million doses of a Chinese-made vaccine to countries with severe COVID-19 outbreaks while it continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus.
UNICEF, which procures and delivers vaccines on behalf of the COVAX program, said Tuesday that North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health has communicated that the 2.97 million Sinovac shots COVAX planned to deliver to the North may be sent elsewhere.
The North Korean ministry also said it will “will continue to communicate with COVAX Facility to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months,” UNICEF said in an email to The Associated Press.
COVAX had also allocated 1.9 million AstraZeneca shots to the North but delivery has been delayed.
Experts say North Korea remains focused on tough quarantines and border controls to keep out the virus, and vaccines appear to be a secondary priority.
Some experts say North Korea could be questioning the effectiveness and rare side effects of the vaccines it’s been offered and holding out for others.
The North claims to have not confirmed a single case of coronavirus infection, despite widespread skepticism. In its latest report to the World Health Organization last week, the North said it has tested 37,291 people for the coronavirus as of Aug. 19 and that all were negative.
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