GAVI says North Korea received Covid vaccines from China

Seoul, Jun 4 (EFE).- The vaccine alliance GAVI believes that North Korea has already obtained Covid-19 vaccines from China and has begun inoculating its population, the institution confirmed to EFE Saturday.

“We understand that DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea) has accepted an offer of vaccines from China and has started to administer doses,” a spokesperson of GAVI, based in Geneva, Switzerland, told EFE.

The spokesperson did not wish to provide any details on the source of this information and added that GAVI was not in a position to “speculate on which vaccines DPRK has received, how they were shipped to the country or Pyongyang’s strategy for rolling them out.”

North Korea, which on May 12 confirmed the detection of the coronavirus on its territory for the first time since the pandemic was declared, is yet to report on its vaccination program.

If true, this would be the first time that the regime has inoculated its population against SARS-CoV-2.

In 2021, it rejected a COVAX grant of two consignments consisting of almost five million doses of covid vaccines produced by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and the Chinese Sinovac.

It remains to be determined how many doses the Kim Jong-un regime received from China and what its criteria would be for administering them among the 24.7 million inhabitants of the impoverished country.

“COVAX has allocated doses to DPRK in several prior allocation rounds, and has always been ready to support Pyongyang should it request our assistance, but so far we have received no formal requests for COVID-19 vaccine support,” added the spokesperson of GAVI, one of the institutions that has been at the forefront of vaccine distribution under WHO’s COVAX initiative.

Experts believe that North Korea, which has kept its borders closed since 2020, is unwilling to accept the donation of vaccines, especially those of the mRNA type to avoid allowing the entry of foreign personnel to advise on the necessary cold chains.

On Saturday, the North Korean state media reported some 79,100 new cases of “fevers” (a term it uses to refer to suspected cases, given its lack of testing capabilities) and one death in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 71 deaths supposedly linked to covid.

According to the authorities, since the end of April more than 3.99 million North Koreans, equivalent to 16.1 percent of the national population, have suffered from these fevers, of which more than 3.85 million have recovered and some 146,720 are under treatment.

These data point to an unusually rapid transmission of the virus and excessively low mortality. The World Health Organization has asked the regime to share more data to know the true extent of the wave. EFE


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