Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader, ordered officials to conduct a more aggressive epidemic prevention campaign “our way” after turning down foreign COVID-19 vaccines through the U.N.-backed vaccination program.
Kim stated that officials should “bear in mind” that epidemic prevention was a task of paramount importance and must not be compromised at any time during a Politburo meeting on Thursday. The official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.
Kim stressed the importance of virus prevention, and emphasized the need to increase the qualifications of health workers. However, KCNA stated that Kim also called for “further completing our style epidemic prevention system.”
Kim had previously asked North Koreans for COVID-19-restricted preparations. This indicated that the nation’s borders would remain closed despite worsening food and economic conditions. Although North Korea claims to have completely eliminated the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2011, it has maintained strict quarantines and closed its borders to stop the spread of the disease.
UNICEF, who procures and delivers vaccines for the COVAX distribution program said Tuesday that North Korea suggested that its 3 million Sinovac shots, which was about 3 million, be sent to countries most in need. North Korea was also scheduled to receive AstraZeneca shots via COVAX. However, their delivery was delayed.
UNICEF reported that North Korea’s Health Ministry still stated it would continue communication with COVAX regarding future vaccines.
Exports suggest that North Korea might want other vaccines. However, some question the effectiveness of Sinovac as well as the rare blood clots in AstraZeneca recipients.
The previously allocated 1.9million AstraZeneca vaccine doses would suffice to vaccinate 950,000 people. This is only 7.3% of North Korea’s 26,000,000 population. North Korea would need to continue to supply more vaccines to inoculate its population.
Leif-Eric Easley is a professor of international Studies at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University. She said that North Korea may be seeking to get more powerful jabs from COVAX, and then allocate them domestically.
“Pyongyang seems to have problems with COVAX, which involves legal responsibility and reporting requirements. Easley stated that it could procure vaccines from China in order to distribute to soldiers and border regions, while also allocating COVAX shots for less vulnerable populations.
“The Kim regime probably wants the safest and most effective vaccine for its elite. However, administering Pfizer in Pyongyang would require an upgraded cold chain capability and discreet talks with the United States. He said that North Korea could also benefit from the (Johnson & Johnson), option due to its portability and one-shot treatment.