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North Korea refuses COVAX monitoring, causing delays in vaccination


North Korea is reportedly refusing to cooperate with monitoring by the UN-backed vaccine-sharing program COVAX, which could further delay the supply of vaccines.

Early this year, North Korea requested coronavirus vaccines from COVAX, a multinational program that provides the vaccines to developing countries.

Pyongyang was to receive 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May through COVAX, but the plan has been delayed as the regime is unwilling to abide by COVAX’s instructions, Kyodo News reported Thursday.

COVAX has asked recipient countries to accept monitoring to ensure that the vaccines are being used as intended, but the North has been reluctant to follow the procedures Kyodo said.

Pyongyang appears to be waiting for COVAX to drop its monitoring requirement, the report added, citing a diplomatic source in Beijing. The regime has also not presented a detailed plan on how to promote vaccination in the country, it said.

Earlier this month the Gavi alliance, which co-leads COVAX with the World Health Organization, said the vaccine shipments to the North would be delayed to the second half of this year due to the country’s lack of technical preparedness and the global supply shortage, according to Radio Free Asia.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, North Korea has imposed the strictest quarantine measures of any nation, shutting down its borders and suspending all trade to prevent the spread of the virus.

The country continues to claim it has had zero coronavirus infections, but observers say an outbreak there cannot be ruled out, given its exchanges and trade with neighboring China.

Amid apparent delays in vaccine shipments, the North’s state media said early this month that vaccines developed by global pharmaceutical companies were far from a panacea, and warned its people to brace for a prolonged battle against the pandemic.

Published : May 21, 2021

By : Ahn Sung-mi/The Korea Herald/ANN