Seoul: According to a South Korean think tank, North Korea rejected planned shipments of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine that were to be shipped under the global COVAX distribution scheme due to concerns about side effects. AstraZeneca’s vaccines will be provided to North Korea by COVAX in doses of almost 2 million.
Last month, South Korea said the first batch was expected to arrive in late May but was delayed because of lengthy consultations. Covid-19 cases have not been reported in North Korea, a position questioned by South Korean and US officials. However, the country has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel restrictions.
In a report by the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), affiliated with South Korea’s spy agency, Pyongyang is now considering other vaccine options. Reuters reached out to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization alliance, one of the co-funders of COVAX, but it did not respond immediately. North Korea is also not keen on Chinese vaccines due to fears they may not be as effective, but it has shown interest in shots made in Russia, hoping they would be donated free of charge.
Lee Sang-Keun, director of strategic research on the Korean peninsula at INSS, citing unnamed sources, said that the vaccine could come from Russia. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Moscow has offered Pyongyang vaccines on numerous occasions. In North Korea, authorities are concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of rare, but severe blood clotting events among some who had received it, Lee added. North Korea’s diplomats overseas began receiving Covid-19 shots at the end of March, but the country is not making any attempts to secure the vaccines for internal use, INSS reported.