North Korea refuses to accept AZ vaccine, criticizes foreign aid for interfering in internal affairs

A South Korean think tank revealed Friday (July 9) that North Korea has rejected an AZ vaccine from the World Health Organization’s Global New Crown Vaccine Sharing Mechanism (COVAX) due to Pyongyang’s concerns about the side effects of the AZ vaccine.

COVAX had said it was prepared to provide 2 million doses of AZ vaccine to North Korea, and the first batch was to be delivered in late May. But endless consultations prevented the vaccine from ever being delivered.

A report released by the National Institute for Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, said North Korea began considering other vaccine options after rejecting the AZ vaccine.

The report says North Korea is also not interested in Chinese vaccines because Pyongyang fears they are not safe enough and may not be effective. However, North Korea is now interested in a Russian vaccine and hopes Moscow will donate the vaccine to North Korea for free.

North Korea has so far not acknowledged any confirmed cases of the new crown infection in its territory, although there is widespread skepticism about the claim that there are no confirmed cases in North Korea. While North Korea does not acknowledge any confirmed cases, it has implemented extremely stringent epidemic prevention measures throughout the country, including closing its border with China and restricting travel within the country.

Lee Sang-geun, director of South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategies, said in an interview with Reuters that “North Korea prefers the Russian vaccine, but so far no arrangements have been made to obtain it either.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said on Wednesday (July 7) that Moscow had repeatedly expressed its willingness to provide the vaccine to Pyongyang.

Lee Sang-geun told Reuters that North Korea rejected the AZ vaccine because of the possibility of rare but serious blood clots in the bodies of the vaccine recipients after the vaccination. the full name of the AZ vaccine is the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine, developed and manufactured by Oxford University and the British and Swedish company Astra Zeneca.

The report by South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategies revealed that while North Korea has allowed vaccinations for its diplomats stationed outside the country since the end of March, it has made no arrangements for vaccinations for the domestic population.

Even if a Pfizer or Modena vaccine were available to Pyongyang, it has no way to guarantee cold-chain transport and storage, the report said.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday (July 6) accused outside humanitarian aid of interfering with the country’s national sovereignty and even constituting “economic infiltration,” according to a report by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. Pyongyang slammed “the actions of certain countries that interfere with and violate” North Korea’s sovereignty “in pursuit of profit and control” of others.

“This cannot be tolerated,” Pyongyang said.

As North Korea criticizes outside humanitarian aid, it appears that the new vaccine needed by the population is not forthcoming.

A Voice of America report in Korean mentioned that vaccines from the Global Vaccine Sharing Mechanism need to be distributed by international health workers in recipient countries, but the North Korean government has refused to accept that condition.

A source familiar with GVS negotiations with Pyongyang was quoted in a report by the Korea Institute for National Security Strategies as saying that North Korea has so far completed only “two of the seven administrative steps” needed to provide the vaccine.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry claimed that the “assistance and cooperation” was like “throwing a bait and switch” and was simply a prelude to demanding “political reforms” from the recipient country. “Sovereignty cannot be ceded or given up in compromise, and we need to embrace it as we make every effort to resist injustice and hegemony.”

South Korea had said it was open to sharing vaccines with North Korea.

If North Korea can’t get its vaccines right, production can’t resume, foreign aid can’t get in, and food shortages will get worse. China is the main supplier of food, fertilizer and fuel to North Korea. The continued closure of the DPRK-China border will exacerbate North Korea’s food shortages.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had acknowledged the economic difficulties at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party last month, “”.

And a recent report released by the United Nations also noted that North Korea is short of at least 860,000 tons of food this year. If vaccines and food aid do not get into North Korea and the population’s production cannot be restored, it is not unlikely that North Korea will face a major famine while the epidemic rages.